A local woman who believes people are being poisoned by the fluoride in Crescent City’s water supply has started a public awareness campaign to try to get the chemical taken out.

Fluoridation of water has been debated in communities throughout the country for decades. Councilwoman Donna Westfall raised the issue shortly after she was elected, but it dissipated after she failed to garner the support of her City Council colleagues.

Flouridation [sic] is widely supported by public health officials as a means of preventing tooth decay.

Now a new Web site created by Crescent City resident Katherine Kelly to inform the public about the dangers of fluoride, aims to circumvent the council and bring the issue back in the form of a ballot measure.

“Once people learn about what the chemical is they put in our water they’re horrified,” Kelly said Thursday. “My job, that I’ve taken for myself, is to get out there and get this information to people so they can make an informed decision on Election Day next year.”

Kelly’s recently launched Web site, www.delnortecleanwater.org , has links to studies and other organizations, such as the Fluoride Action Network, that contend fluoride is a toxic substance and should be removed from public water supplies.

Kelly said her site is meant to provide people with a starting point to learn about fluoride.

“The issue is massive, there’s so many aspects to it,” Kelly said. “My Web site probably represents 0.2 percent of what’s available.”

Opponents of flouridation [sic] of public water supplies contend overexposure to the chemical can cause health problems ranging from discoloration and weakening of tooth enamel to an increased risk of bone fractures and lowered IQ.

Fluoridation started in the U.S. in the 1940s as a means to reduce tooth decay. It quickly spread throughout the country to where the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention states on its Web site that in 2006 nearly 70 percent of the U.S. population that received water from a public supply had fluoridated water coming through the taps.

Crescent City voters decided to put fluoride in its own water supply about 50 years ago, around the time it started to get its water from the Smith River. To stop fluoridating the water, a similar voter initiative would be required.

Westfall asked her colleagues to consider defluoridation at a December meeting. In part, she looked at the move as an opportunity to save money — the city spends about $10,000 a year to fluoridate its water supply.

She was rebuked not only by fellow council members, but also by the city’s interim manager at the time, Michael Young, who wrote a staff report recommending to leave fluoride in the water.

“The dental benefits far outweigh the costs,” Young said in December.

His report also state it would about $17,000 for a special election, and that “there would be an offsetting cost of increased dental care in an unknown amount, but probably significantly more than $10,000 per year.”

The council’s non-action in December fell in line with the widespread notion that fluoride is beneficial to reduce tooth decay. Aside from local dentists and county health officials, both the American Dental Association and the Center for Disease Control and Prevention advocate for water fluoridation, with the latter agency calling it “one of the 10 great public health achievements of the 20th century.”

Kelly, with the help of her newly formed organization, the Del Norte Clean Water Coalition, plans to change this perception, at least locally. And though not affiliated, she’s found an ally in Westfall, who “wholeheartedly”?supports Kelly’s campaign.

“I’m very opposed to medicating our water supply,” Westfall said in an email Thursday.

“It’s time for Del?Norte County to evaluate the evidence and educate themselves to the hazards of fluoride,” she said. “They far outweigh any benefits, and I?was never convinced that there was good data to suggest any benefits in the first place.”