I am afraid that the Meadville Area Water Authority is about to make a decision that will be an expression of its will and not the will of the residents of Meadville and parts of Vernon and West Mead townships. I am concerned that Dr. Dennis Finton was appointed by the mayor and City Council when they knew that MAWA would make the final decision on the request to add fluoride to the water and that there is no avenue for citizens to vote and have their voices heard. Dr. Finton is a member of the Happy Smiles group that is advancing the fluoride initiative in Meadville. Dr. Finton has attempted to arrange at least one meeting outside of regular meeting hours that would have constituted a quorum and been a Sunshine Law violation but the meeting was declined by then MAWA Vice Chair Joe Stainbrook.

The mayor and City Council have refused to poll MAWA board members to see if there was an attempt to influence anyone else concerning fluoride. I am especially concerned that while the Happy Smiles group has been to a MAWA Board of Directors meeting and made a formal presentation in front of the board, the Clean Water Meadville group that opposes public water fluoridation has been denied the opportunity to make a presentation and while there is alleged politicking on the water board itself, the members of Clean Water Meadville are denied contact with water authority members and must send e-mails to the attention of the project manager who forwards all correspondence to the MAWA board members. Of many sent, only a few have been answered and in the briefest manner. We are permitted to address the board after regular scheduled meetings but only for three minutes.

I am concerned that recent appointee Mark Gildea told a Tribune reporter that he is “not afraid” to make a decision concerning fluoride. I think that that type of confidence is appropriate when making personal or business decisions, but we would like to see a bit of trepidation when making health care decisions for thousands of others without first seeking the opinion of those who will be medicated without their consent. Fluoride fits squarely into the description of a medication. Chlorine is put into the water to sanitize it and make it safe for consumption; chlorine treats the water. Fluoride is put into the water to treat you and I, the consumers of water, for present or future dental disease. My reading of the most recent and comprehensive studies show me that there is not a strong relationship between fluoride and dental caries (cavities) but there is a strong relationship between fluoride and fluorosis, a mottling of the teeth ranging from mild to severe, affecting 41 percent of 12 to 15 year olds nationwide.

Clean Water Meadville is prepared to bring experts to Meadville as the Happy Smiles group had experts from outside of Meadville during the community presentation at Stone Methodist Church. Our dilemma is that we need lead time for scheduling and purchasing airline tickets at a fair price to bring our expert to Meadville. We would like to have MAWA hear the other side of this issue but its members will not answer our correspondence so that we may put together some kind of timeline to organize community events and also make a presentation to the water board. This is an appeal to put aside personal agendas, work with both sides of this issue and let the voices of residents be heard in a meaningful way. My research shows me that in communities where people can vote on this issue, fluoride is defeated in a majority of cases, generally in a 60 to 40 percent split with 60 percent in opposition to fluoride.

Chris Knapp is a Meadville resident, chiropractor and member of Clean Water Meadville, which opposes water fluoridation.