PORT ANGELES — Four of the seven City Council members are noncommittal on abiding by the results of an upcoming survey of water users who will be asked if fluoridation of city water should continue after May 18.
In recent separate interviews, Mayor Dan Di Guilio and Councilmen Lee Whetham and Dan Gase said they would vote to stop fluoridating city water if that’s what water users say they want in the survey, which will be conducted by mail on a still-undesignated date in November.
Deputy Mayor Patrick Downie and council members Brad Collins, Cherie Kidd and Sissi Bruch took a wait-and-see attitude.
Under a 10-year agreement with the Washington Dental Service Foundation, fluoridation of city water will continue after May 18, 2016, unless the City Council votes to discontinue the practice of adding fluorosilicic acid to the city’s water supply to prevent tooth decay.
Fluorosilicic acid is injected into the water system at a volume between 0.8 and 0.95 milligrams per liter, Craig Fulton, city public works and utilities director, said Friday.
The state requirement is 0.8 to 1.3 milligrams per liter.
“People aren’t drinking the acid,” Fulton said.
“The acid breaks apart. It’s very diluted.”
Fluoridation opponent Patricia Graham said Friday she does not care how minute the amount is.
“I personally don’t think it’s good for us,” she said.
“If you are only getting that amount, it’s still cumulative in your system.”
Some opponents have said the fluoride originates in China, where there are high areas of natural fluoride, a mineral, and where residents have felt deleterious effects from fluoride.
Fulton said public works buys the fluorosilicic acid from BHS Specialty Chemicals in Nampa, Idaho.
Most of the ingredients originate from Israel, he said.
Fulton said BHS conducts the final processing of the fluorosilicic acid in Seattle, so BHS is considered the manufacturer.
Opponents say fluoridation is physically harmful, readily available in other forms and tantamount to forced medication.
Proponents say those fears are overblown and that fluoridation is a longtime, beneficial public health measure.
Thoughts of members
“This is something the community needs to make a decision about, not me,” Di Guilio said, adding that his children did not have any cavities until they moved to Port Angeles and began drinking the city’s fluoridated water.
“I don’t see any sense in asking the community what they think if you are not going to pay attention to it.”
Whetham said he was not qualified to make the decision.
“You’ve got doctors on each side, pro and con,” he said.
“I definitely would honor what [the survey] runs out.”
Gase said he was looking forward to an Oct. 22 council meeting featuring pro- and anti-fluoridation presentations and an Oct. 29 meeting at which citizens can weigh in on the issue.
“I really think we have to follow the direction of the people,” Gase said.
“Nothing comes to mind that would want me to go against it at this time.”
He added he hopes the survey will show a clear mandate and not be just a few percentage points’ difference between the other side.
That was Downie’s concern, too.
If the survey shows a clear majority, such as 70 percent against fluoridation and 30 percent for, he would be more inclined to vote against continuing fluoridation, said Downie.
He said he was “uncomfortable” voting to discontinue fluoridation if a bare majority wanted to discontinue the practice.
“I have not made up my mind yet,” he said Friday.
Bruch, too, said her vote will depend on the margin between the pro- and anti-fluoridation sides.
“It depends on the percentage, and also, I want to know what the other options are [for fluoridation],” she said.
Collins said he would consider the survey data and information presented by proponents and opponents before deciding which direction he will take.
“I won’t be making a decision until all that information is put in front of the council,” Collins said.
Kidd, too, said she wanted to examine the survey results and listen to the presentations and citizens’ comments before making a decision.
“Things have to be discussed further,” she said.
The survey, which will include a return envelope, will be mailed to city households and 1,550 Clallam County Public Utility District addresses east of Port Angeles in the urban growth area that are connected to the city’s water system.
Each household will receive one survey.
It will include statements for and against fluoridation written by a fluoridation committee headed by Dr. Tom Locke, Jefferson County public health officer, and Dr. Eloise Kailin, a longtime fluoridation foe.
Both have been frequent speakers at public comment sessions during City Council meetings over the past 12 months, along with numerous other residents for and against fluoridation — mostly against.
In a 1975 advisory ballot election, Port Angeles residents overwhelmingly voted against fluoridation.
Fluoridation of city water began May 18, 2006.