A local advocacy group will soon urge the Common Council to approve fluoridation of city water, a move that has prompted protest in the past from opponents who fear health problems and government interference.
Though no date has been set, Oneida-Madison County Preventive Dentistry Coalition wants to address the council as part of the group’s activities funded by a $37,000, three-month grant from the state Health Department.
As part of its educational push, the group intends to promote community fluoridation in municipalities such as Rome, Boonville and Oneida that do not have fluoridated water. Utica already fluoridates its water.
Many health advocates say fluoridation of water promotes oral health, particularly in children, by reducing tooth decay. Opponents say too much fluoride can cause health problems.
The last time fluoridation was a major issue was in 1987, when the city was in the process of planning, approving and building a new filtration plant. Supporters thought the kickoff of the state-required plant would be the right time to start fluoridation. The plant opened in late August of 1987, and now serves between 40,000 and 50,000 people in Rome, the Town of Lee, and parts of Western and Floyd.
In the end, the Common Council chose not to fluoridate, stating fluoridation was an unnecessary process. Public Works Commissioner Robert A. Comis said there has been no discussion of the issue since. It could be done now, he said, but fluoridation is not “a need-to-do thing” now. “It’s a community issue,” he said.
“If the citizens came to the Council, then we would look at what it would take to do it.” Comis said the process of fluoridation would require new equipment. A municipality in Vermont, similar to Rome in size, recently spent about $70,000 to start fluoridation, said Upper Mohawk Valley Regional Water Board Water Quality Director Connie Schreppel. That amount does not include any structural changes or expansions that might be needed.