POTSDAM — The village will go ahead with a grant-funded study of the village’s aging water fluoridation system.
They are doing so without the guidance they expected from the state Department of Health (DOH) on the matter.
The Board of Trustees voted last Monday to spend $9,900 for a study from Environmental Design and Research (EDR) laying out the cost options the village has if they wish to repair, replace or remove the 35-year-old equipment that has been adding fluoride to the village’s water to help stem tooth decay, especially in children.The grant money for the study is coming from the state DOH.
But other help in deciding the matter the village had been expecting from the DOH did not materialize.
That help was to be in the form of a conference call between village officials and DOH representatives who were supposed to explain the department’s expectations and state legal requirements on municipal fluoridation systems, whether a locality wants to start up a system, repair a system, or shut one down.
“The law is subject to interpretation,” said Trustee Abby Lee, who participated in the conference call.
“When the mayor and I spoke to them, we had some pretty specific questions about the process. They were pretty ambiguous,” she said, mentioning shades of meaning between phrases containing the words must, may, should, and can, for instance.
To make changes to a municipal fluoridation system, the locality “must follow a process which is not well defined,” Lee said.
The procedure is spelled out in state Public Health Law on public water supplies, including a section under Title 1 on fluoridation designated 1100-A (2015).
“The law is new, and probably being tested,” Lee said.
Even before the call, the village had sought fresh opinions from the village attorney and state authorities on current knowledge and law, and had not received clear and authoritative enough information on the alternatives available to the village.
The issue has come up because the system the village now employs apparently needs maintenance at least, or possibly replacement, and any discussion should probably allow for consideration of dropping the practice, which has been crowded by controversy for decades.
There seems to be consensus among experts that water fluoridation can help reduce the number of cavities in the teeth of children, but there are those who are opposed who doubt its efficacy and some who believe the fluoridation is toxic to people.
The Board of Trustees will see the study from EDR and hold a hearing on the issue, as required, before they adopt a policy.