Board of Health Chairman Dr. Sydney Wedmore and board colleague Dr. Sydney Jimenez said a recent report from the U.S. Department of Public Health recommended towns lower the level of fluoride to an optimal level of 0.7 parts per million.
“It’s 1.0 part per million now,” Wedmore said “The board voted last month to implement this within the technical ability to do it. Many cities and towns have already done this.”
The move to cut the amount of fluoride in the town’s drinking water came after a contentious but unsuccessful campaign this spring to have the compound removed totally. The official vote at the May election, was 1,186 to 800 in favor of fluoridating the town water, a practice initiated decades ago under the belief that fluoride helps prevent cavities in teeth.
Wedmore and Jimenez told selectmen last week that the Board of Health also discussed ways to alleviate some of the tension in town following the May election.
“The recent vote on fluoride consumed a lot of the town’s attention,” Wedmore said. “We were also discussing how this vote was affecting this town, the pros and cons, and the board’s only legitimate concern was the absence of choice: ‘You live in town, here’s your water.’ It’s a trump card to the majority, and it bothered us.”
Jimenez said the board thought the town could offer unsupplemented drinking water to residents.
“The town could set up a water station where people could go and fill up containers,” Jimenez said. “I don’t think it would be very costly. This way both sides would win.”
Selectmen Chairperson Sarah Wilkinson said she thought the town might have to charge a fee for fluoride-less water.
“You don’t have to charge for it; you don’t charge for water fountains,” Jimenez said.
The Board of Health members came to the selectmen to inform them of the direction being taken, as the selectmen do not have authority over the board’s decisions.
The Board of Health will work with the Department of Public Works and personnel at the town water treatment plant to come up with a cost estimate for plumbing changes and a water tank to supply supplemented water.
The three-member Board of Health — the third member is Dr. Russell Sandfield — also wants to add two members. That would bring the board to five, and help preserve its institutional memory, its members told selectmen.