A committee of Owen Sound council is recommending holding a public meeting on the city’s practice of adding fluoride to its drinking water.

Coun. Bill Twaddle, chairman of the operations advisory committee, said the city has heard from people on both sides of the debate and is interested in learning the “current thinking” on the controversial practice.

“The committee has taken no position on this,” he said in an interview. “It’s just said, we want to be more informed so let’s hold a public meeting.”

Council is expected to vote Monday night on the committee’s minutes, which include the recommendation to hold a special meeting to address the issue of fluoridation. A date and location have not yet been proposed.

The committee has also asked city staff to investigate and report back on why more and more communities are removing fluoride from their water. It also wants medical officer of health Dr. Hazel Lynn to attend the public meeting on fluoridation.

Owen Sound has been adding fluoride to its water supply since 1965. An average of 0.6 mg of fluoride are now added for every litre of water.

The practice is supported by public health agencies, including the Grey Bruce Health Unit, and many dental practitioners as a way to reduce tooth decay.

Opponents, on the other hand, say it is an outdated, ineffective practice that is not safe and poses a threat to human health and the environment.

Enough signatures were gathered on a petition in 1997 to trigger a plebiscite as part of that year’s municipal election. Electors voted 4,633 to 3,097 in favour of keeping fluoride in the water.

Since that referendum upheld the practice, another plebiscite is needed before it can be stopped, according to the Fluoridation Act 1990.

Council can vote to hold a plebiscite in 2014, but it must approve the bylaw by April 30. A referendum can also be triggered if a petition is started and is signed by 10% of voters and delivered to city hall by June 1.

City council voted in 2011 to begin a public process to review fluoridation of the city’s water supply.

Fluoride is added to about 76% of community water systems in Ontario, according to a report by Owen Sound’s water and wastewater manager Matt Prentice. Only 7% of communities with public water systems in Quebec add fluoride to their water.

Thirty-five Ontario communities have removed fluoride from their water since 2000. Windsor council voted to do so in January, against the advice of the city’s public health unit.

Prentice said it costs Owen Sound about $15,000 a year to add fluoride to its water. Pumps need to be replaced in about a year or so, he said, which will cost about $11,000.