During the past year’s discussion, it has frequently been stated that the authority to fluoridate the city water supply resides solely with the commissioner of public works, according to the city charter.
On Monday night, I sought to challenge that authority and warn the city of impending liability from the fluoridation program, but the city — the Board of Aldermen — wasn’t interested.
The charter (Section 9-24.4) states that the commissioner “shall have the exclusive general management and supervision of the City water works and may make and enforce regulations regarding the use and control of water.” There is no mention of adding a medicine to the water.
In the ordinances as well, I find no authority to add a drug or medication to the water.
As the designation of fluoride is sometimes a matter for debate, I would cite the following statement from an official of the Food and Drug Administration to a member of Congress showing that the FDA considers fluoride placed in drinking water a drug. The quote is from a letter of Dec. 31, 2000, from Melinda K. Plaisier, associate commissioner for legislation of the Food and Drug Administration, to Rep. Ken Calvert, chairman of the Subcommittee on Energy and Environment of the House Committee on Science: “Fluoride, when used in the diagnosis, cure, mitigation, treatment, or prevention of disease in man or animal, is a drug that is subject to Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulation” (http://www.fluoridealert.org/wp-content/uploads/fda-2000a.pdf).
Surely medicating the population of Rutland through its water supply is a big step beyond “management and supervision of the City water works.”
I would also like to point out the following: Section 5350 of the city ordinances states, “No sewage or polluted liquid of any kind shall be discharged or allowed to flow into any reservoir or watercourse, or beneath the surface of the ground in the watershed. …”
Rutland’s fluoridating agent, fluorosilicic acid is a highly caustic liquid that would be considered hazardous waste if the fertilizer plant in Wyoming that produced it were to try to dispose of it in the environment. The bill of lading for Rutland’s last delivery of fluorosilicic acid states that the product delivered also contained 0.41 parts per million of lead and 3.47 parts per million of arsenic.
In other words, through a liberal interpretation of the charter, the commissioner is being allowed to put directly into our water what the ordinance prohibits him or anyone else from putting into Mendon Brook.
This leads me to a second issue.
Based on the reasoning above, I believe that the addition of fluoride to the city water supply amounts to “playing doctor,” an activity that is fraught with liability. I say “playing” because no doctor would do what Rutland is doing.
Rutland is administering a drug to its citizens. These are “patients” it has never met and whose medical histories it has not examined. The city is effectively saying to those patients, “Take as much as you like of this drug (fluoride), and take it for the rest of your life, because some people need it, even if you don’t.” Residents have little choice in the matter, other than to purchase water without fluoride at a cost of about $1 per gallon or more.
No doctor could do what the city is doing.
Though dentists and health officials have insisted that fluoridation is completely safe, current, reputable science points to known or likely side effects, including dental fluorosis and harm to the kidneys, the skeleton, the thyroid gland and the endocrine system. Reputable studies also suggest risks to infants whose brains are in the crucial early stages of development.
This brings us to the question: Are Rutland and its taxpayers liable for harm that may be shown to result from drinking fluoridated water? At a time when the city is going to special lengths to avoid liability claims for injury, does it make sense to be playing at the practice of medicine? Does the city want to risk another million dollar settlement from negligent performance of its functions or for actions it has no authority to perform?
Please note that among the dentists and public health proponents strongly supporting fluoridation in advance of the recent town meeting, none accepted responsibility for harm that might result.
Board President William Notte rejected my request to present my case as part of the regular agenda. He said he believed my challenge to the authority of the public works commissioner was “not valid under the charter.”
I presented my case briefly from “outside the rail” at the start of the meeting, but no alderman wanted to refer the matter to committee, where it could have been discussed and perhaps referred to the city attorney for review.
Jack Crowther has lived in Rutland since 1968. He manages the website rutlandfluorideaction.org.