STE. GENEVIEVE, Mo. – Voters on Tuesday rejected a proposal to fluoridate the city’s water system, 54 percent to 46 percent.
Although the proposal was in a nonbinding referendum, members of the city’s Board of Aldermen expect to vote on the issue in coming weeks. How the board will vote is still in question, however.
Alderman Kathleen Waltz, who has been a fluoride supporter, said the 675-574 vote was close enough that she still intends to vote in favor of fluoridation. She called the opponents position in the anti-fluoride campaign “foolish and untenable.”
However, Alderman Joan Eydman, wearing a “Vote No To Fluoridation” T-shirt Tuesday night, said she probably would vote against fluoridation. “I’ve said publicly however the people vote, that’s how I’ll vote,” she said.
Fluoridation has been controversial here since this city 65 miles south of St. Louis began studying it last year. From 1980 to 1993, Ste. Genevieve’s water had been supplemented with fluoride. But the city never resumed fluoridation after the Flood of 1993 ravaged this city of 4,400 people and damaged its old water plant.
Ste. Genevieve’s dentists support fluoridation, saying they’ve seen sharp increases in tooth decay since 1993. But anti-fluoride activists, who say the chemical may pose a risk to the public health, have railed against it.
In April, the Board of Aldermen endorsed an ordinance to restore fluoride to the city water supply by a vote of 5-3. But after several people testified against fluoride at two subsequent meetings, members said they were hesitant to vote because they were unsure of how their constituents felt. That’s when the board scheduled Tuesday’s referendum.
Fluoride, a naturally occurring compound, hardens tooth enamel and helps block acids that can lead to decay. More than 145 million people, or 62 percent of Americans in 10,000 communities, drink fluoridated water, including most of the St. Louis area.