Kalama voters will most likely decide whether the city continues to add fluoride to its drinking water, a practice that’s been hotly debated in the past several months.
Members of the City Council voted unanimously Wednesday to ask voters in a Nov. 4 election whether city water should contain fluoride.
The council ultimately decides whether to add fluoride to water, and the vote is technically for advisory purposes. However, all four city council members at Wednesday’s meeting — Donald Purvis was absent — said they would carry out the will of the voters.
“You’re not bound by (the vote), but you work for your constituents,” said Mayor Pete Poulsen, a former city water manager who first raised concerns about fluoridated water earlier this year.
Council member Dominic Ciancibelli said he feels the issue shouldn’t have come before the council at all. Few citizens complained about fluoridated water before Poulsen raised concerns in January, Ciancibelli insisted during a testy exchange with the mayor.
But Ciancibelli still plans to abide by results of the November ballot, he said.
“I’d rather have the citizens choose than have the council choose,” he said.
Kalama has fluoridated its water for about 50 years. Advocates say the practice safely reduces tooth decay, while opponents worry that it may have negative health impacts and that consumers should decide whether to continue its use.
The debate has drawn attention to Kalama and advocates from both side packed city council chambers for an April public hearing.
“We’re letting people who use the water determine whether they get fluoride or not,” council member Mike Langham said. “Leave it to the people.”