The ongoing fluoride debate from the Town of Parry Sound is trickling into the surrounding Municipality of McDougall.

At the regular meeting of council Wednesday, Nov. 18, Wayne Gilbert, member of the Parry Sound for Progressive Water Management group, presented a deputation to council, regarding the continuation of fluoridation of Town of Parry Sound water, which serves some McDougall residents.

Gilbert explained that when fluoridation was first introduced in the 1950s, no studies were conducted investigating and outlining its effectiveness or potential long-term health consequences.

“In Parry Sound many letters have been sent to our mayor and council asking them for this practice to be discontinued,” said Gilbert. “Council responded with asking the district medical officer of health, Dr. Chirico, to address this question …twice he has spoken with Parry Sound council, both times saying that we have done this for sixty years, he sees no problem.”

Gilbert said the Parry Sounders for Progressive Water Treatment have provided town council with numerous studies, which outline “the serious health risk associated with the ingestion of this high toxic chemical.”

Gilbert informed McDougall council that McKellar resident, former dentist and professor, Dr. Hardy Limeback has also spoken to Town council offering a different stance from that of Dr. Chirico – continuing to fluoridate the town’s water is endangering rate payers’ health.

“Because the Township of McDougall buys drinking water for its residents from the Town of Parry Sound this issue also affects your rate payers,” said Gilbert. “A petition will be presented to our ratepayers asking if they would like this practice discontinued. If 10 per cent of ratepayers respond that they would like this removed a municipal referendum will be required.”

In clerk Cindy Vankoughnett’s report to council, she explained the Fluoridation Act dictates that “because (McDougall and Parry Sound) are a joint waterworks system, each municipality must have at least 10 per cent of their total electors sign a petition prior to a referendum moving forward.”

The Town of Parry Sound council voted in June to continue to fluoridate, which results in a necessary upgrade of $250,000 to the water treatment plant.

 In addition to the plant upgrades, it costs approximately $4,500 to $5,000 per annum to fluoridate the water.

Joseph Moloney, also of Parry Sounders for Progressive Water Management, spoke to council, informing them of locations around the world that have taken action against fluoridation, including Europe, Israel, and cities and towns across North America, one of which being the nearby Town of Huntsville.

“Ninety-eight per cent of Europe has gotten rid of fluoride; Israel, their Supreme Court ordered it out of all municipal drinking water based on modern science,” said Moloney. “In North America, 200 cities and towns have gotten rid of it from Vancouver, Calgary to Denver to Huntsville whose mayor at the time was a dentist.” Moloney said the group is pushing for a referendum now so money is not invested in the costly water plant upgrades and continued annual fluoridation costs.

“We’ve had experts come into council and they’ve chosen to listen to one person, unfortunately…and so we’ve been put in this position,” said Moloney.

Moloney, speaking on behalf of the group, stated they do not want the referendum to occur at a cost to the Town of Parry Sound of $19,000 plus staff time and approximately $15,000 to $16,000 to the Municipality of McDougall, but would rather see Parry Sound council end fluoridation.

Vankoughnett explained in her report, that there is a total of 345 connections to the town water system, concluding that fluoridation affects not all of McDougall’s ratepayers.

In hopes of avoiding a referendum, which mayor Dale Robinson pointed out would cost approximately just as much as a regular election, councillor Peter Daleman suggested the option of surveying residents about their preference on fluoridation.

Daleman said he is not interested in referendum and that if it were to occur, voter participation would be extremely low due to the number of residents who are affected and who are interested.

Councillor Lynne Gregory added Parry Sound has voted for the more expensive option to continue to fluoridate the water – a cost that would in turn flow on McDougall ratepayers, resulting in a “trickle down” effect.

Council voted unanimously to direct staff to draft a letter to be delivered to McDougall ratepayers asking their preference on fluoridation. The intention of the survey process is to avoid a referendum by making a decision as a council based on the responses received from ratepayers.

“There has to be some care taken in coming to the decision on it,” said councillor Daleman. “When it comes to cost it’s a no brainer but if there is a health benefit there then you need to take that into consideration.”

An alternative to the referendum would be for the Town of Parry Sound council member on the prevailing side of the original vote (to upgrade the town’s water treatment plant) to provide a Notice of Motion at a council meeting. The motion would then come before council at the following meeting.