STUART — The Stuart City Commission voted 4-1 Monday to give residents the last word on whether the city should add fluoride to its water supply.
The commission had already decided in January to ask voters their preference in a Nov. 6 ballot question, but hadn’t decided whether voters or commissioners would have the final decision.
At Monday’s meeting, the commission faced two choices. The first was a straw poll, which would gauge public opinion on fluoride treatment and leave commissioners to make a decision based on the poll results. The second, which the commission chose, was to print the proposed ordinance on the ballot and let voters adopt the measure.
The city’s fluoridation plant has been ready to go since November 2006. If voters approve the measure, Stuart could begin adding therapeutic amounts of fluoride to the city’s drinking water almost immediately.
The ordinance language originally presented before the commission said the city’s water supply would be treated with a specific type and amount of fluoride. But following testimony from Stuart periodontist Dr. David Boden and Inge Ford, a doctor with the Martin County Health Department, the commission decided to leave the specifics open to future discussion.
“I don’t want this to tie the city’s hands,” said Mayor Mary Hutchinson.
Instead, the ordinance will state that Stuart’s water “shall be fluoridated at an amount not higher that the level approved by the Florida Department of Health,” so the city can adjust the amount and type of fluoride it uses without having to vote on the issue again.
After the meeting, Boden described the decision as “simple, straight and allowing flexibility for future adjustments.”
But what some called flexible, others called vague. The amendment did not sit well with Vice Mayor Jeff Krauskopf.
“We should say what and how much we’re putting in,” said Krauskopf before casting the only dissenting vote.
Anti-fluoride activists blasted the City Commission decision, expressing disappointment that the ordinance wouldn’t specify what form of fluoride the city would use.
“Will the manufacturer provide a certification that it’s safe?” asked Stuart resident Andrew Treacy. “And can they show that there’s nothing else in it — arsenic, lead, mercury?”
“We want to know the product that’s going in there,” said Palm City chiropractor Julie Bjornson. “Call it what it is. What they’re putting in there is hyrdofluosilicic acid.”
But those distinctions are misleading, according to Boden.
“The compound they use makes a difference in how they handle it at the water treatment facility,” Boden said. “But once in the water, it’s no issue, especially in the amounts they’d use.”
THE QUESTION Ballots will ask Stuart voters this question Nov. 6:
Ordinance Amendment question (by Ordinance):
Shall the City of Stuart adopt the following Ordinance provision?:
Fluoridation of water. The City’s potable water system shall be fluoridated at a level not higher than the level approved by the Florida Department of Health.