Lambton’s municipalities are not equal when it comes to the controversial fluoride issue, says the man heading up the local water system.
Terry Burrell wants a second legal opinion after the first obtained by the Lambton Area Water Supply System (LAWSS) concluded member municipalities need only cast one vote a piece to remove fluoride from local water.
The board’s current voting system uses weighted votes based on population and consumption levels.
“Each municipality is not equal in terms of volume of water or population,” said Burrell, a Sarnia city councillor. “In fact, in some municipalities, we only service part of them, not the whole municipality, yet they would have one vote.”
According to law firm Garrod Pickfield, only four of the six member municipalities in LAWSS need to pass bylaws to remove flouride, which is added to drinking water to fight tooth decay.
Citizens could demand plebiscites by presenting petitions to their individual councils signed by 10 per cent of the electorate, said lawyers at the Guelph-based firm.
The water board is comprised of one elected representative each from Sarnia, Lambton Shores, Plympton-Wyoming, Warwick, Point Edward and St. Clair Township. Sarnia has five votes, St. Clair two and the other municipalities one each.
“It’s just unfair,” said Sarnia Mayor Mike Bradley. “I think the legal opinion is off base. It’s not whether you need to have a plebiscite, you should have a plebiscite.”
Bradley said city taxpayers use 70 per cent of the system’s treated water and should have a greater say. He intends to raise the issue at Monday’s city council meeting and ask for a public vote in the next municipal election.
Lambton Shores Mayor Gord Minielly said a second opinion isn’t necessary. His council sought its own legal advice and it backs up the findings of the system’s lawyers. Even in Sarnia, where the bulk of users live, people don’t want to vote on the issue, Minielly said.
“We’d be doing them a favour,” Minielly said of a decision to remove fluoride.
He said the additive is a health risk that’s being ingestion from drinking water and toothpaste.
“We’re being overdosed and it’s causing a number of other health issues,” he said.
Earlier this year a Health Canada study recommended lower optimal concentrations of fluoride in drinking water to protect children and infants.
The report’s authors recommended a level of 0.7 milligrams per litre as the optimal target. The maximum acceptable concentration is currently 1.5 mg/L.
The local system is already well within those limits.
Burrell said the health ramifications must be thoroughly evaluated before any decision is made. A comprehensive federal and provincial study on fluoride is currently underway, and Burrell would like to wait to see that data, which is expected next year.
“To me this is a medical type of recommendation, it’s not really a political issue.”