A group of citizens is asking voters to stop the City of Hood River from adding what it terms “dirty fluoride” to the water supply.
The Hood River Drinking Water Protection political action committee filed a voter initiative last week. The chief petitioners in the drive to put the issue on the March 8 ballot are city residents Raquel Gutierrez, Eric Voigt and Kim Folts. The trio felt it was necessary to act before the city council brought the issue of fluoridation back to the table next year.
They want to ward off any consideration of sodium fluoride, sodium fluorosilicate or fluorosilicic acid. The group contends these substances are toxins derived from the industrial waste of fertilizer factories and aluminum smelters.
“This measure is as simple and straightforward as they get. We’re confident that most people in the city don’t want industrial waste by-products added to our drinking water and this measure would make that city law,” said Gutierrez.
Brent Foster, a Mosier attorney representing Columbia Riverkeeper, a supporter of the initiative, said the text of the measure is short and to the point. He said, if adopted, it would direct the city not to expose citizens to health risks by using an additive that contains lead and arsenic. Foster said many citizens are unaware that the fluoride put into public water systems is very different from the pure pharmaceutical grade found in toothpaste.
He said there is no safe level of lead, that the intelligence of children can be impaired at levels once thought to be safe, according to research conducted by Dr. Bruce Lanphear, a physician at Children’s Hospital Medical Center in Cincinnati, Ohio. For that reason, Foster said the local measure requires that no substance be added to the water supply that exceeds the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s maximum level contaminant goals. However, the measure would not affect existing treatments intended to make water safe or potable, such as use of chlorine.
“This measure should really be insightful because the people who want to add dirty fluoride to our water will be the ones having to explain why keeping industrial waste out of our drinking water is a bad idea, said Folts. “The notion that you help kids by giving them dirty fluoride contaminated with lead and arsenic would be laughable if our kids’ health was not at stake.”
Foster said some city officials appear to deny that sodium fluoride is also an industrial waste by-product. However, he challenged them — and citizens — to read the manufacturer’s own fact sheets.
“If they (city) really think that’s true, however, then they shouldn’t have any problem with the Drinking Water Protection Measure,” said Foster.
Last summer Councilor Charles Haynie spearheaded a drive by the city council to bring the fluoridation issue before voters in November. He believed the city had an obligation to protect lower-income children who did not practice good dental hygiene, and the elderly, from tooth decay.
Haynie felt it was timely to pursue the issue because installation of a fluoridation plant could dovetail with the replacement of an aging water main and chlorine treatment facility. However, controversy began immediately after Haynie’s proposal was brought forward. Mayor Paul Cummings objected to the city taking the lead with the initiative, saying that it was reminiscent of “Big Brother” deciding what was good for the people.
Foster then stepped forward representing six citizens and Columbia Riverkeeper. He successfully challenged the language in the city’s proposed measure.
Foster’s clients wanted voters to have a listing of the three fluoride compounds that could be used, claiming they were by-products of industrial waste.
Haynie objected to the revised ballot summary, charging that the changes were “not factual.” Haynie countered there was no good science to disprove fluoridation and that opponents were using “scare tactics” posed as health risks simply to sway public opinion.
Then two area businesses, Full Sail Brewing Company and Hood River Distillers, entered the fray with objections about the costs they would absorb to remove fluoride from their operations.
In August, the city tabled the issue until staffers could formulate a workable strategy for implementing fluoride and educating citizens about the issue. Haynie wanted a new ballot measure to be crafted that reflected the city’s updated research and brought back for consideration sometime after May of 2005.
Foster said concerned citizens decided to act before the city made another move toward fluoridating the water.
He said as soon as city attorney Alexandra Sosnkowski prepares the official ballot proposal, his clients will begin the signature gathering drive necessary to bring the issue before the city’s 3,431 voters.
“This measure would be a valuable took in preserving the quality of the water we drink,” Voigt said.
Foster is also working with several other Hood River residents on a referendum challenging the city’s adoption of a Goal 5 riparian protection plan for the waterfront that accommodates some development.