The nearly five-year journey to a decision on whether or not to fluoridate the water supplied by Meadville Area Water Authority has entered its final stages. The MAWA board will vote on the issue at a special meeting on June 14 at 10 a.m.
The meeting will be held at the Lew Davies Community Center, 1034 Park Ave., to accommodate interested members of the public who would like to attend.
Three board members have already stated their positions on the topic. During a spirited discussion at the authority’s monthly meeting in May, Hal Tubbs and John Fulmer came out against fluoridation while Dennis Finton spoke in favor of it. Board President Tim Groves and member Mark Gildea have not yet taken a public position.
In discussing logistics for the June vote, attorney Ted Watts advised board members that they need not allow public comment at the meeting, citing MAWA’s public comment policy. The policy affords the board “the right to refuse permission to any individual to speak at an open meeting to address the same subject discussed at a previous meeting.”
While comments will not be allowed prior to the vote on June 14, MAWA board members have encouraged members of the public to submit comments prior to the vote through mail or email — despite the fact that three members appear to have already made their decision.
The controversial fluoridation issue has been on the radar in Meadville since May 2013, when a number of local dentists, doctors and others forming a group, now known as Meadville Smiles, presented the results of months of research into the issue along with a request that MAWA begin fluoridation. Front and center in their argument were two facts: first, dental pain or other dental issues ranked as the top reason for visits to MMC’s emergency department for several years running; and second, a community health needs assessment revealed a significant number of area residents felt they had dental issues, but didn’t consider good dental health care to be available to them.
Proponents have gone on to support their position by citing the 72-year history of community water fluoridation, its use by more than 70 percent of Americans served by community water systems, its recognition by the Centers for Disease Control as one of the 10 greatest public health achievements of the 20th century and its support from numerous organizations of experts among many other factors.
From virtually the moment the fluoridation request was made, voices were raised in opposition. In fact, at the same May 2013 meeting, the pro-fluoride presentation was followed by four members of the public expressing a variety of concerns. In the years following, local opposition has coalesced around the Clean Water Meadville group led by chiropractor Christopher Knapp.
Opponents have countered the pro-fluoridation arguments by questioning the scientific basis for those arguments, objecting to a water additive being imposed on them without their individual consent, arguing that fluoride is available from other, more effective sources, and suggesting that despite its long history fluoridation contributes to a wide variety of negative side effects, among numerous other criticisms.
Officials at MAWA delayed a decision on fluoridation for several years as the authority focused on two major infrastructure projects, the Highland Avenue water tanks and the new clearwell. Those projects were completed in 2016 and the authority’s attention eventually turned back to fluoridation. A long-promised public forum on the issue took place May 4, with national experts on both sides of the issue offering presentations to an audience of more than 100 community members, dozens of whom stated their own views for and against fluoridation.
You can comment
Meadville Area Water Authority is still accepting comments on fluoridation. MAWA users can submit comments through the authority’s website at mawa.us; through email to firstname.lastname@example.org; or through mail to MAWA, 18160 Rogers Ferry Road, Meadville 16335. MAWA’s May 4 public forum on fluoridation can be viewed online at YouTube.com by searching for “Armstrong MAWA.”