PARRY SOUND – Do you have an opinion on water fluoridation? You have 21 days to have your say.
Last week town council directed staff to make the draft bylaw, “removal of fluoride from Parry Sound’s drinking water,” available for public comment for a three week period.
The bylaw will come back to council for deliberation at its March 15 meeting.
Last month council rescinded its June 2015 resolution approving upgrades to the Tony Agnello Water Treatment Plant; the upgrades were necessary to continue fluoridating the municipal water supply.
The upgrade would have cost taxpayers $250,000. However, $13,000 of the allotted $250,000 has been spent proceeding with the upgrades approved by council in June 2015. The remaining funds go back into the water reserves and will be used for other projects.
Once again, Coun. Bonnie Keith spoke against the removal of fluoride from the town’s drinking water.
“I just want to say that I personally see this draft bylaw as a shortcut to the issue of fluoridation or no fluoridations and I feel that the report that is presented here when it is including cost issues. I think it neglected to also include what the cost issue must have been for staff between June time and up to near present for their involvement in the investigation,” said Keith during the Feb. 16 council meeting. “The bottom line to me is again, this draft bylaw, we should have had the referendum as soon as possible rather than waiting the two years as suggested here…I think the most vulnerable are being affected. I think the public should be able to respond to their viewpoint on the matter now rather than waiting the two years.”
Coun. Paul Borneman, who brought the motion to upgrade the water treatment plant back to the table, said this could be an opportunity to level the playing field for those on both sides of the issue.
“We voted in a recorded vote on these matter a couple of weeks ago and gave this direction to staff to proceed in this manner. With respect to waiting for the referendum, even if one tosses aside the vote, the organization to have fluoride removed from the water was so well organized at this point that having a referendum at this point would be a foregone conclusion,” Borneman said. “Two years of experience provides the residents with some opportunity to say, or to experience whether or not they’re experiencing greater dental bills or not. It gives them some opportunity to educate themselves on the topic and it gives that side of the equation some opportunity to come up with a plan and come forward like a champion to make that pitch to the public when it does go to a vote. This, in some way, perhaps, provides an opportunity for an equal playing field in 2018.”
All of council voted in favour of the draft bylaw, except for Keith.
Following the approval for upgrades to the fluoridation system in June 2015, a group of concerned citizens gathered and began voicing their opposition through letters, phone calls the deputations to council.
By November 2015, the group suggested a referendum to let Parry Sound and McDougall residents decide if they wanted their water fluoridated.
McDougall has been purchasing water from the town since 2007.
At a cost of $19,000 plus staff time, a referendum would be held if 10 per cent of both Parry Sound and McDougall’s electorate signed a petition wanting fluoride removed.
In January, members of Parry Sounders for Progressive Water Management headed out on foot, canvassing the streets of Parry Sound soliciting signatures in support of removing fluoride.
More than 90 per cent of those polled in Parry Sound wanted the chemical out, while surveys sent to McDougall residents showed the vast majority there also wanted it out.