ONEIDA – The debate over whether or not the city’s water supply should be fluoridated has begun, and the city Common Council will soon discuss the benefits and concerns of the measure.

The Oneida-Madison County Preventive Dentistry Coalition has brought the discussion of public water fluoridation back before the council. While the measure is provided to lower incidences of tooth decay, health concerns over the measure, such as whether or not overexposure causes cancer, have arose making it a controversial topic. Upcoming worksessions and public hearings are expected to generate much debate from city residents.

City councilmen are already making their determinations on the measure. Fourth Ward Councilman Army Carinci said he expects the decision to ultimately go to a public referendum because he says it should not be a council decision. Many other water districts purchase water from the city, including the Route 365 corridor and the town of Verona, and they would all be affected.

“I have my pros and cons about it,” Carinci said. “What I go by is the amount of people that contact me about it. So far the response I’ve gotten from what was talked about so far is that people just don’t want fluoridation.”

Carinci said he is concerned about fluoride, because when too much is ingested it can turn into a poison. Carinci said that on any toothpaste package, one can see that fluoride is a poison, because there is a warning about overexposure to fluoride.

“If you ingest too much, it says to contact a poison control unit, and you can see that on every box of toothpaste,” Carinci said.

First Ward Councilman Donald Skinner said he was not in favor of fluoridation, because he is concerned about the health of city residents.

“I would not be in favor of putting something in the water,” Skinner said. “The purest water has nothing in it at all.”

Skinner said he was also concerned about the cost to the city. It would cost Oneida $12,000 to install the fluoridation system, and then $30,000 a year to maintain. Skinner said the debate should go to public referendum, but he was concerned about liability.

“What if it gets out of whack?” Skinner said. “If something happens and someone overdoses, there would be a liability problem for the city.”

Sixth Ward Councilman James Griffing said the measure would be a matter of improving the city water, and adding improvements to the city of Oneida.

“It’s just a matter of improving things,” Griffing said. “People don’t have to get all shook up about it, because you have to make improvements to the city as you can. Oneida is not a fancy city, but it’s a good city, and it needs things done.”

Third Ward Councilman Erwin Smith said he has no opinion yet on the matter, but has a lot of questions he needs answered.

“I have no opinion yet, because we haven’t had our meeting yet,” Smith said. “I have a lot of questions to ask someone, and I just assume wait until then.”

Fifth Ward Councilman Donald Moore said that after he researched fluoridation through information received on the Internet, he is against public water fluoridation in the city of Oneida.

“I’m worried about the long-term effects on health,” Moore said. “And they really haven’t shown that it cuts down on tooth decay too much. I didn’t see where it would do us any good.”

Oneida Mayor Jim Chappell said he still needs to hear more information from both those opposed to the measure and those in favor of the measure before he can form an opinion. He said that the Madison County Health Department introduced the idea to the council in 1978, but more information has been learned, so he felt it would be favorable to reintroduce it to the council.

“I’m not necessarily in fear of fluoridation, but I need to listen some more and get some facts,” Chappell said.

Second Ward Councilman Ted Hanifin could not be reached for comment as of press time.

City Water Superintendent Art Smolinski denied comment on water fluoridation when contacted Monday.

“I have no opinion,” Smolinski said. “It’s not my decision to make, it’s the council’s.”

According to information provided by James Kinsella, public health educator of the Madison County Health Department, fluoridation reduces the tooth decay of children and adults regardless of dental hygiene or social and economic status. Water fluoridation is the least expensive way to deliver fluoride’s benefits to all residents of the city.

Studies show that fluoridation can reduce individual dental health costs from $10 to $40 per year. The average cost of fluoridation adds about 50 cents per year per person. The additional cost for Oneida water may be between 50 cents and $1.50, the information provided by Kinsella said.

The council will have a worksession with the Oneida-Madison County Preventive Dentistry Coalition on Tuesday, Jan. 29 at 7 p.m. in the Common Council Chambers at City Hall.