As expected, water fluoridation was a hot topic at the 2015 Bennington Town Floor Meeting, with those for and against weighing in.
On the ballot for Tuesday is an article asking voters if they want fluoride added to the drinking water. It’s an advisory vote, meaning the Select Board has the final say on whether or not such a measure is ever taken.
Mary Lou Albert, of Bennington, said a recent study, published in February of this year, links water fluoridation to hyperthyroidism. These findings, she said, echo past studies.
“Bennington Citizens Against Fluoridated Water urges the Bennington residence to vote no on Article 15, keep our water pure, and keep our freedom of choice,” she said.
Al Ray, of Bennington, said the state of Minnesota mandates fluoridating town water, as do other places. He said he also contacted the Mayo Clinic, a world-renowned medical practice and research center based in Rochester, Minn., and learned it is in favor of water fluoridation. He said what’s good enough for the Mayo Clinic should be good enough for Bennington.
Jerry Albert, of Bennington, said fluoridated water had damaged his children’s teeth, and that the Bennington Oral Health Coalition, the group that got the article on the ballot through citizen signatures, would discredit what his family had to say on the matter.
He said the Bennington Banner’s coverage of the issue has been “offensive” to him. “Throughout this while fluoride discussion the Bennington Banner took press releases from the Bennington Oral Health Coalition, cut and pasted them, and put them in the paper and called it editorial opinions,” he said. These editorials, he claimed, criticized his family’s claims.
He called this “irresponsible journalism,” adding that his family has never been contacted by the Banner to ask about his family’s health problems related to fluoride.
Richard Dundas, a member of the oral health coalition then spoke while wearing a sign in support of Article 15. “It says, ‘Life is better with teeth,’ and that’s really the bottom line,” he said, adding that anti-fluoride letters to the editor were published in the Banner as well. He said a number of pro-fluoride letters were also left out, sometimes seemingly in favor of anti-fluoride letters from out-of-state.
He said the Bennington community has “deplorable” dental health, and has had this for many decades. “There have been six occasions in which fluoridation has surfaced as an issue and science has lost, and a vocal minority has won the day,” he said.
A number of people stood up to speak out against fluoride or to speak for it, each side saying the other side’s studies were lacking in one respect or another. Someone questioned the cost of adding fluoride to the water. Jerry Albert said information he got from Brattleboro, which looked into it, indicated it would be about $180,000 in equipment.
Town Manager Stuart Hurd said the town already possesses some of the needed equipment, which it now uses to add chlorine to the water. Numbers from the State of Vermont show it would cost about $15,000 per year.
Dundas said more recent estimates by the town water superintendent put it closed to $10,000.
Select Board Chairman Greg Van Houten said the wildcard issue would be, does the water treatment facility need to be expanded to accommodate what new equipment would be needed. Without an engineering study, that number can’t be reliably estimated.
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