SPRINGFIELD – The City Council last night unanimously approved a nonbinding resolution supporters said aimed at retaining the city’s right to decide whether to fluoridate its water.
The bid to maintain “home rule” targeted a state House bill on oral health that would require all cities and towns of at least 5,000 people to add fluoride to water supplies.
The resolution asked the Legislature to delete language in the oral health bill that abolishes the “home rule” right.
The House bill – filed by state Rep. Kathleen M. Teahan, D-Whitman – doesn’t specify fluoridation deadlines and says the state would help communities pay for fluoridation.
The city doesn’t add fluoride to the water supply, though fluoride exists in the water in small, naturally occurring levels, Katherine J. Pedersen, spokeswoman for the Springfield Water and Sewer Commission, said after the meeting.
“Springfield’s water is considered to not contain fluoride. We do not add fluoride to the water,” Pedersen said.
Discussion on the council floor at City Hall and in the public speak-out that preceded the regular meeting was about fluoride, directly and indirectly.
The resolution’s sponsors, councilors Angelo J. Puppolo Jr. and Domenic J. Sarno, both said they oppose adding fluoride to the water supply but that last night’s focus was on ensuring the city continues to have the chance to decide for itself.
“We need to send the message that we here in Springfield want to control our own destiny,” Puppolo said.
Some speakers said they visited City Hall because they want the water supply to stay without municipally added fluoride.
Others said they wanted to protect the city’s “home rule” right to make such a decision in the future, which they said Teahan’s oral-health bill would endanger.
The meeting included rows of sign-holders with messages such as “I love my water” and “I love my rights.”
This city and others nationwide have argued about fluoride for decades. Dr. Thomas J. Manning, a dentist and member of the city Public Health Council, has supported fluoridation for years and said it has proven to be an effective oral-health tool.
The American Dental Association and the American Medical Association are among those that support community water fluoridation, Manning said.
Springfield chiropractor Stephen A. Dean, president of the Massachusetts Committee for Pure Water, said chemicals used in fluoridation can be harmful.