MELBOURNE — An issue that has been put forth before the Melbourne City Council multiple times in the past has ultimately gone to rest.
On Nov. 26, the Melbourne City Council voted 4-3 in favor to continue fluoridating drinking water for customers across southern Brevard County.
City council members took a re-vote after Councilman Tim Thomas was out of state to attend his daughter’s wedding during the previously scheduled Nov. 12 vote, which resulted in a 3-3 tie.
Those in favor of continued fluoridation included Councilman Thomas, Councilwoman Yvonne Minus, Vice Mayor Debbie Thomas and Mayor Kathy Meehan. Those opposed included Councilwoman Julie Sanders and Councilmen Paul Alfrey and Mark LaRusso.
“Fluoride is beneficial and it is much needed in our water,” said Councilwoman Minus. “We have […] dedicated pediatricians and doctors here. I’m asking that we entertain retaining fluoride in our water.”
Councilman Alfrey, who was opposed to adding fluoride, spoke on the view that residents should be consenting to whether fluoride should be added to their drinking water or not.
“We really look toward our other government agencies, our other elected officials for how they’re doing in their areas,” Councilman Alfrey said. “I was wondering why there is 19 counties throughout Florida that doesn’t event do community water fluoridation. I figured I’d contact them and […] make sure we do our homework because we are making a critical decision for this community.”
The Department of Health and Human Services has set a standard of optimal fluoridation in drinking water at 0.7 milligrams per liter to prevent tooth decay.
According to Ralph Reigelsperger, director of the city of Melbourne’s Department of Public Works and Utilities, Melbourne’s drinking water already has 0.2 milligrams per liter in natural fluoride. The city of Melbourne already currently adds about 0.4 to 0.5 milligrams per liter, he added.
At the city council meeting that determined continual fluoridation, 45 residents stood before council members explaining why they were for or against fluoride in their water systems.
The two major areas of focus were informed consent and the protection fluoride provides from tooth decay for people across any socio-economic status.
Three West Melbourne city council members spoke in favor of continuing fluoridation. They added that in a recent city of West Melbourne meeting, council members discussed the possibility of constructing a reverse-osmosis water treatment plant and the water system would include fluoridation.
“I’m on the side to remove it,” said Stel Bailey, executive director of Fight 4 Zero. “I believe that it’s about informed consent and that’s it. I think that people need to have the choice whether they want a chemical put in or not.”
Dr. Eli White, a pediatric dentist of 53 years, said, “When I moved here and started my practice it became immediately apparent that there was a tremendous difference between the children in central and south Brevard, and those in the Titusville/Mims area. The reason being Mims and Titusville did not have fluoride in the water.”
A number of residents presented anecdotal evidence that they grew up in areas without community fluoridation in the water and never got a cavity. Other residents shared their appreciation for fluoride being introduced in the water because they could stop buying fluoride tablets for their children.