City councillors nearly drowned in rhetoric Monday as they waded through an impassioned debate on fluoridated drinking water and voted 5-4 against it.

Council’s stand against fluoride won’t change anything in this round of talks but it could set the stage for the question to be on the 2014 election ballot.

Even though the City of Sarnia represents the largest population that uses water supplied by the Lambton Area Water Supply System (LAWSS), three of LAWSS’ six member municipalities have already voted in favour of keeping fluoridated drinking water, making it impossible for a majority of four to swing the vote.

Coun. Jon McEachran led Monday’s argument against fluoride, although he did not have nearly as much to say about it as Coun. Andy Bruziewicz who cited a multitude of studies and experts who don’t support fluoride.

“There are thousands of studies out there on both sides and I’d rather err on the side of caution,” said McEachran. “…There’s enough evidence, to me, that surely we should not be putting this poison in our water.

“We are not doctors and we should not be mass medicating our people,” McEachran continued. “If so, what about (adding) Vitamin A, Vitamin D…..”

“Whiskey?” interjected Bruziewicz, which prompted a caution from Mayor Mike Bradley to deal with the issue fairly.

“We are taking a terrible risk with no data supporting a reward,” McEachran finished.

Councillors Mike Kelch, Anne Marie Gillis, Bruziewicz and Bev MacDougall agreed.

Several said the argument came down to choice.

“We sell our water customers a product they must buy,” Kelch said “They should have a choice of what’s in the water.”

The “purest” product possible should be sold, he said.

City council had a package with 400-plus pages of studies and opinions both for and against, including an anti-fluoride statement from the Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment.

But Coun. Terry Burrell and Coun. Jim Foubister said local health authorities, including Lambton’s Medical Officer of Health, recommend keeping fluoride.

Foubister said he grew up in Sarnia during the 30s when there was no fluoride and his teeth suffered for it. His children and grandchildren have good dental health that he attributes to fluoridated water, he said.

“Every health organization says (it) is safe and effective and beneficial,” said Burrell.

He called those who don’t support fluoridated water “amateur sleuths” who vote on “the philosophy that it is a right” without consideration for the poor who cannot afford fluoride otherwise.

Leading health organization such as the WHO, Ontario’s Ministry of Health and the Canadian government, do not support removal of fluoride, Burrell said.

“If you can get all these organizations to come forward and say it should be out of there, then fine I’ll listen.”

Mayor Bradley participated because it was a recorded vote. He continued to support fluoride as he has historically.

Sarnia’s position may not have any immediate effect but Bradley said he wants to see the question on the ballot next year.

That’s the only way the contentious issue will finally be settled, he said.

Sarnians voted in favour of fluoridated water many years ago on an election ballot. Bradley said he hopes the Lambton Area Water Supply System will choose the question and ensure all six municipalities use it.

The issue arose again this year because LAWSS needs to replace its fluoridation equipment in the next year or so and requested direction from its municipal members.

This spring, Warwick, Lambton Shores and Point Edward voted in favour of it, St.Clair was against it and Plympton-Wyoming was undecided.