With a week left before their signature-gathering deadline, fluoridation opponents announced today they’ve already gathered 20,000 signatures toward a ballot referendum that would halt the fluoridation of Portland’s water

Portland’s city council voted unanimously last month to add fluoride to Portland’s water supply. But a group called Clean Water Portland filed immediately for a referendum that would put the city council’s decision on hold until the city’s next election in May of 2014. The fluoridation decision would then be put to the voters.

But in order for this to happen, Clean Water Portland needs to collect 19,868 signatures before next Friday, October 12.

If valid, the group’s 20,000 signatures put them over this mark. But the group aims to collect 10,000 more before Friday’s deadline.

“We know that a lot of the signatures get thrown out because the person’s not registered to vote, or they don’t live in the city of Portland, so this last week is really the push,” says Clean Water Portland spokesperson Kim Kaminski. “We’re telling our volunteers to turn on the afterburners, because we’d like to have a really nice margin when we turn in our signatures to the city.”

Kaminski says the organization has between 15 and 25 paid signature gatherers, alongside hundreds of volunteers. “It’s pretty much understood,” says Kaminski. “You can’t get a referendum on the ballot in such a short amount of time by just relying on volunteers.”

She’s optimistic that the group will have enough valid signatures by October 12 to force a public vote, and says that delaying the fluoridation decision will offer voters a chance to do more thorough research on the issue.

I question Randy Leonard’s motivation when he pushed this through so quickly,” Kaminsky says. “They don’t even know what chemical they’re going to use. There are some serious questions that have to be answered.”