The debate over whether Martinsville should continue to add fluoride to its drinking water apparently continues.
Near the end of Tuesday night’s Martinsville City Council meeting, Councilwoman Sharon Brooks Hodge, who opposes water fluoridation, indicated that she will bring up the issue again for conversation or a vote as soon as all five council members are present for a meeting.
Hodge said she did not bring up the issue during the July 28 council meeting due to Vice Mayor Jennifer Bowles not being there — she was away on business — and “I’d like to extend the same courtesy” to Councilman Mark Stroud, who was not at Tuesday’s meeting. He was on vacation, according to city officials.
Therefore, “I will postpone it (bringing up fluoride again) to another time,” Hodge said. That could be as soon as the next council meeting on Aug. 25.
“But I don’t want anybody to think that I’ve given it up on the fluoride conversation,” Hodge said, smiling. “It’s not over till it’s over, so it’s not over yet.”
The council has five members. When one is absent from a meeting, there is the chance for a vote on any issue to be a tie, with two ayes and two nays.
However, Hodge said immediately after the July 28 meeting that she sensed that if she were to make a motion to remove fluoride from water, it would not be seconded by another council member.
Mayor Danny Turner and Councilman Gene Teague have said they would not support such a motion. Bowles has said she is leaning toward not being in support. Stroud has declined to say whether he would be supportive.
Communities nationwide have put fluoride, a derivative of the element fluorine, in their drinking water since the 1940s to help prevent dental problems, such as tooth decay, among residents. Martinsville has fluoridated its water since the 1960s. The city spends about $15,000 a year to do so.
The American Dental Association, which supports water fluoridation, has determined that about 75 percent of Americans connected to public water supplies have fluoride in their water.
Health officials generally agree that fluoride in drinking water is safe if it does not exceed a certain level. The U.S. Public Health Service recommends a level of not more than 0.7 milligrams per liter. That is the level now in Martinsville’s water, officials have said.
Still, studies have indicated that exposure to too much fluoride could lead to dental and health problems such as white spots on teeth, thyroid conditions, hyperactivity and brain disorders.
In recent months, various people have addressed the council, urging it to discontinue fluoridating Martinsville’s water. Several opponents were in the audience at Tuesday’s meeting but did not speak. Most had left the meeting before Hodge made her remarks.
Teague has surmised that if most city residents did not want fluoridated water, the council would have heard more criticism of the practice than it has so far.
Also on Tuesday, the council heard from area resident Chad Martin, who asked how a recent private meeting held to discuss concerns about local race relations went.
Officials said they think the meeting, held at The Sportsmen’s Club uptown, went well. They declined to discuss what was said. Hodge said the meeting, which some city officials attended, was intended to be private so people would feel more comfortable voicing their opinions on a sensitive topic.
Two similar private meetings with groups of concerned citizens are planned in the coming weeks. Locations have not been announced. It had not been mentioned before Tuesday’s council meeting that the recent race relations meeting was held at The Sportsmen’s Club.
The council appointed Susan McCulloch, the city’s community planner, to the West Piedmont Planning District Commission’s Technical Advisory Committee and Mary Ruth Reynolds to the Blue Ridge Regional Library Board.
City Manager Leon Towarnicki told the council that the stretch of Cleveland Avenue in front of Martinsville Middle School will be repaved next week, but the work will be timed so that it does not affect school traffic.