Rutland City has voted at least twice on whether to add fluoride to city water and twice on whether to remove it in the past 50 years.
In the early 1980s, the effort to add fluoride to the water was driven by a group of doctors and dentists called the Rutland County Health Council. In one public forum, Dr. William Lovett, a Rutland dentist, cited a study comparing the dental health of children in Burlington and Barre — which had fluoridated water systems at the time — with children in the Rutland and Ludlow area, where the water supply was not fluoridated. Children in fluoridated areas had an average of 0.2 cavities, while non-fluoridated children averaged more than six, according to the study, even when controlling for educational and economic backgrounds.
In a Nov. 2, 1982, vote, city voters authorized the addition of fluoride to the water by a vote of 2,699 to 2,610. In early December 1982, a petition bearing at least 1,200 signatures asking for a revote triggered a second go-around on Town Meeting Day. In March 1983, Rutland voters took up the question of whether to rescind the addition, but residents voted to keep fluoride by more than a 500-vote margin, according to contemporary news reports.
After the March 1983 vote, the city added fluoridation infrastructure to the water system at a cost of about $35,000, and in early February 1984, the equipment began adding fluoride at the rate of one part per million.
In April 1990, the city’s health officer — Dr. James A. Gray — declared the city’s water safe after residents raised concerns about a study that showed a weak correlation between heavy fluoride consumption and incidence of cancer in male rats, according to a Rutland Herald story. At that time, the highest fluoride ratio ever recorded in city testing was 1.6 parts per million, Gray said. In addition to fluoride, the city added chlorine as well to cut down on bacteria, and zinc orthophosphate, a compound that bonds with the metal pipes and prevents lead and other substances from leaching into the water supply.
In a special election Nov. 3, 1970, city voters approved adding one part per million of fluoride to city drinking water, by a vote of 2,943 to 2,595. That decision never took effect, overturned on the following Town Meeting Day in 1971, when voters reversed that decision.
Proctor began adding fluoride to its drinking water in about 1961.