Port Orchard residents may get to voice their opinion soon about whether or not the city should put fluoride in their water.
“Since we’ve determined that this is not required to be a ballot issue, we don’t need to take this to a general election,” Mark Dorsey, the city’s public works director and city engineer, said Tuesday. “We’re going to do a survey, for information only.”
The city plans to look for someone to write a one-page summary explaining the benefits of optimally fluoridated water and someone to write a similar summary explaining the drawbacks.
The city plans to send the summaries and an informal ballot out with utility billings, to get a pulse on how most people feel about the issue.
The city is also checking to see if it received any related grants, in the past, that require an optimally fluoridated system, an issue other municipalities have encountered when switching fluoridation systems, Dorsey said.
Currently, the parts of Port Orchard near downtown receive fluoridated water, while other areas, tied into the Bremerton water system, get water without fluoride.
Dr. Bruce Yoder, a dentist who has worked in the area for 27 years and practices near Cedar Heights Junior High School, says he can see the difference between the teeth of clients who get water with fluoride and those who don’t.
“There’s a distinct difference,” he said. “There’s more cavities in children from communities with non-fluoridated water.”
“It fights off cavities. It protects the teeth,” Yoder said. “I think you’d be hard-pressed to find anyone involved in valid research to say that there’s a danger in optimally fluoridated water.”
Part of the city doesn’t get fluoridated water because it’s tied in with Bremerton’s water system, and Bremerton has opted against fluoridation.
“We can’t add fluoride, even if everyone in McCormick wanted it until we’re separated,” Dorsey said, “and there would have to be quite a bit of capital improvement to the infrastructure before we can.”
The discussion of whether or not city water should be fluoridated was sparked by several citizens who oppose fluoridation.
The City Council discussed the issue at a work study session Tuesday.
“I brought this up the other day with my dentist as I was sitting in the chair with my mouth full of fluoride,” Councilman Fred Olin said. “It was his opinion that 99 percent of dental professionals, because of their training, their experience and the articles that they read, they are in favor of fluoride, because in his opinion, at least, it prevents or slows down tooth decay.”
“Where it’s really important is in children and even more important is for poor kids, because they do not get the fluoride treatment from their dentist that my kids got.”
Several city council members said they had similar experiences.
“I had the same conversation with my dentist, and she said the same thing,” Mayor Lary Coppola said.
Yoder said that the issue came up about 20 years ago, and groups came to Port Orchard from other areas to debate the issue.
Some members of those groups argued that fluoride caused major stomach problems and other medical issues like cerebral palsy.
“Empirically, just looking at it, if three-fourths of the nation has fluoridated water, you would expect three-fourths of the nation to have these problems in mass, and they don’t,” he said. “I think what happens sometimes, smaller groups make louder noise.”