Palatka city commissioners voted unanimously to keep additional fluoride out of the city’s drinking water.
Palatka Water Plant Superintendent Melvin Register recommended the city not approve a request for community water fluoridation Thursday, and commissioners stood behind the staff recommendation.
“The chemical is unnecessary and was an expense we cut back on when we were trying to tighten our belt,” Register said. “We’re still tightening our belt and we don’t have the budget for it.”
The city discontinued water fluoridation in 2011 at Register’s request, as he said the chemical was corrosive and continuously broke down water plant equipment. The addition of fluoride cost the city about $12,000 per year at the time.
Advocates of community water fluoridation made the request to reinstate community water fluoridation earlier this year. Commissioners held a workshop last month and heard the request again Thursday.
“We will not re-workshop this today,” Mayor Terrill Hill said before the discussion began.
Johnny Johnson, co-chair for the Fluoridation Action Team Oral Health Florida, spoke at the request of local doctors and health officials. Advocates for community water fluoridation said the additional fluoride in city drinking water would help prevent cavities and tooth decay, especially in people who are not receiving adequate dental care.
“I had this table sent to me from the (department of health) and it shows that back in 2004, water fluoridation was getting cut way, way back,” Johnson said. “And starting in 2008, it wasn’t added at all. That is why you’ve had the problems you’ve had. You all have had an absence of water fluoridation for many years now.”
He said advocates recently celebrated the 70th anniversary for water fluoridation in the United States, adding that millions of people in America are now living with fluoridated drinking water.
Johnson said the cost of community water fluoridation would cost Palatka residents about $1.15 per person per year .
“It is time to move into a new age of accountability fairness and dialog to help our community,” local pediatrician Dr. Eric Jump said.
Local resident Jan Pettit spoke against adding fluoride to the city’s drinking water.
“What do you do with a very toxic aluminum by-product?” She asked. “Given enough time, it can eat through any containment, including glass.”
“I believe fluoridation is hazardous to my health,” local resident Allegra Kitchens said. “You would be forcing me to drink that. And even worse, making me pay for it.”
Commissioner James Norwood Jr. reminded the commission that community water fluoridation was discontinued because the chemical was causing corrosion on the city’s equipment.
“We tried it. Fluoride didn’t work well for us and our plant,” Commissioner Mary Lawson Brown said.
Brown made the motion to reject community water fluoridation at staff’s request. The commission unanimously agreed.
“I suggest we look closely at what the health department is doing,” Hill said. “My concern is we are forcing it on individuals who don’t necessarily want it. The health department works with people more individually. I think we should work with the health department to see what programs they have in place. The topical fluoride seems to be another alternative.”