After opponents push for ban, dentist calls it ‘fear-mongering’

NEWBURYPORT — An initiative to ban fluoride from the city’s drinking water reached the City Council Monday night, but like many dental issues, it appears that it will take a few more appointments before the matter is resolved.

Councilors listened to more than a dozen presentations critical of fluoride before referring the matter to the city’s Public Utilities Committee, which is chaired by Councilor Ari Herzog and includes councilors Jared Eigerman and Bruce Vogel.

Most speakers were gravely critical of the substance, which has been in the city’s water since 1969, but one local dentist called assertions by opponents a form of “fear-mongering.”

In coming weeks, the committee will consider a request for a special referendum to be held on Election Day, Nov. 3.

The question would be, “Shall fluoridation of the public water supply for domestic use in the city of Newburyport be continued?

Even if the three-member panel does not support the referendum, city officials say the question can be brought before the City Council again. The council then would be voting on whether to send the measure to the state Legislature to request a special act to permit the city to place it on the ballot.

If councilors approve the final version, it  could appear on the November ballot.

If councilors and/or state leaders do not approve a ballot measure, it is unclear what is the next step for fluoride opponents. Municipal leaders, with the help of their city solicitor, a Boston law firm, are currently researching that possibility.

The matter appeared on the council’s agenda Monday night because a small but ardent group of opponents are pushing a ban on its use.