Sandy Golden is upset by the prospect of fluoridation without representation.
A Duquesne resident, Golden said she feels that Joplin is trying to impose its will on her family.
“Just because Joplin thinks it is a good idea (to fluoridate the city’s water) doesn’t make me believe it is necessary,” she said.
“I don’t have an avenue for stating my wishes on this. I would like to have a vote.”
The Joplin City Council voted last week to introduce fluoride to the city’s water supply, a decision that, if it stands, would also mean the chemical will be in the water in several smaller communities that are served by Missouri-American Water Co.
Christie Hunt, communications manager for Missouri-American, said some residents in Duquesne, Saginaw, Silver Creek, Leawood, and Airport Drive are supplied by the company’s treatment plant, wells, and network of waterlines. In addition, Webb City and Galena, Kan., purchase some water from the company, she said.
Webb City’s council also approved plans to fluoridate its water, but residents in the other communities may be forced to abide by Joplin’s wishes.
Opponents of fluoridation in Joplin are trying to organize a petition drive that would put the issue to the voters during a special election, but those living in the other towns are also shut out of that process.
“How can Joplin pose its will on other customers of Missouri-American?” Duquesne Mayor Rick Sweet said Friday.
Joplin, Hunt said, has a franchise agreement with the company that effectively binds Missouri-American to the city’s will. Fluoride will flow with the water to the other towns because many of the lines in and surrounding Joplin are connected.
“We can’t pick and choose who gets fluoride,” she said.
The company, Hunt said, remains neutral in the debate on whether to add fluoride. She said she would like to see the Jasper and Newton County Community Health Collaborative open a dialogue with the smaller communities about what the introduction of the chemical would mean to residents.
Cyd Smith lives in the Airport Village Apartments in Airport Drive, an area that receives water from Missouri-American.
Smith said he supports fluoridation “100 percent,” but would like to see his representatives have a say in whether his water is fluoridated.
“I was shocked when I came to realize my water was not fluoridated,” said Smith, who moved to Airport Drive a year ago. “But I feel that all the people affected by a decision should have a voice.”
Duquesne’s dispute, Sweet said, is with the water company, not with Joplin.
“Joplin is doing what they think is best for their residents, but at the same time, they are effecting our residents,” he said.
Over 90 percent of Duquesne residents draw their water from Missouri-American, Sweet said. The city, however, does not have a franchise or any other sort of agreement with the company, he said.
Duquesne residents, Sweet said, are treated by the company as individual customers.
“Which leaves us, as a city, little bargaining power,” he said. “No more than an individual would have.”
Saginaw and Silver Creek have franchise agreements with Missouri-American, Hunt said. She said she isn’t sure what would happen if the villages oppose fluoridation.
“I don’t know what our options would be,” Hunt said.