Fort Town residents will likely be asked come election time whether they continue to want fluoride added to their drinking water.
Council took the first step Monday night toward a referendum on the issue when it agreed to hold a public meeting presenting both the pros and cons of water fluoridation. The date hasn’t been set for the session but it will be advertised. “I think we have to give it its due,” Councillor Jo-Anne Beckstead said of the fluoride debate.
Councillor Terry McConnell also feels town residents should be given updated information on fluoridation.
“I’d be in favour of holding a public meeting. The people of Prescott need more information on this,” McConnell said.
Also in agreement is Councillor Nancy McFarland and Councillor Garry Dewar. Mayor Robert Lawn and Councillor Seeley Pillar are not opposed to gathering public sentiment.
The town has been putting fluoride in its water since the early 1960s. The question of whether or not to continue arose during a budget meeting last week.
Chief administrative officer Robert Haller informed councillors the water treatment plant’s fluoride flow regulator equipment needs to be replaced and a new alarm system installed. This will cost about $15,000. Or it could stop the treatment, thereby saving the town money.
The use of fluoride does wear on water treatment equipment. It is also hazardous to handle and staff working around it must be tested twice yearly to ensure there are no medical complications, Haller said.
Haller apologized to council for springing the issue on them but he said deadlines must be met if it is to be added to the municipal election ballot in November. One requirement is a public meeting.
“This is a window of opportunity,” Haller said.
A few years ago Gananoque held a referendum on the issue and the public voted in favour of eliminating fluoride. Haller said fluoride has been removed in most European countries and from some parts of the United States.