SCHUYLKILL HAVEN – The borough will put its plans to stop adding fluoride to its drinking water on hold so borough council can conduct additional research and reconsider its decision.

“Even though we’ve already voted 4-3 to remove the fluoride, I think we need to take the time to study this all a little more and just think it over,” councilman Donald Gerber said at Wednesday’s council meeting. “I’m not saying we might not still come to the same conclusion, but just what I got tonight and what I’ve discovered online – it just boggles my mind.”

At borough council’s Feb. 3 meeting, a motion to continue adding fluoride to the borough water supply failed to pass in a 3-4 vote. Gerber joined Marlin Berger and Paul Bedway to vote in favor of adding fluoride, while Carl Berger, Jerry Bowman, Michael Devlin and Roger Spotts voted against adding fluoride.

According to ActionPA, a Philadelphia-based environmental research and community support group, Schuylkill Haven had the only water authority in Schuylkill County to add fluoride to its water.

The council voted 7-0 to reconsider its decision after several residents expressed their opinions about ending fluoride use in the borough.

Suzanne LaScala said she was “stunned” by the council’s decision and called each councilman who voted against adding fluoride to ask him to rethink his decision, and had begun asking each if he still felt the same way before borough solicitor Mark Semanchik stopped her.

“The individual reasons why any elected official votes is not really something that should be gotten into … it’s really not something that, at a public meeting, a council member should be called out individually to explain their vote,” Semanchik said.

None of the four councilmen who voted last month to stop using fluoride had explained their reasoning – only Marlin Berger elaborated on his vote. The fluoride vote was also absent from the Feb. 3 meeting agenda, and no citizen comments addressed the issue.

Another resident, Tricia Wilde, said she was proud of the borough for its “very progressive” decision to stop adding fluoride to its water supply. Wilde said topical fluoride use has many dental benefits, but the negative effects of ingesting fluoride have often been ignored.

“From an ethical standpoint, it’s forced medication on the public without informed consent,” Wilde said.

Dr. Frank Solga, a borough orthodontist, said he did not want to give a “yes or no” on adding fluoride, but aimed to give an objective look at some pros and cons.

“I called my fellow colleagues up. We’ve been indoctrinated in dental school since 1956 that fluoride is great,” Solga said, adding that the original research cited by the American Dental Association often ignored evidence to the contrary.

Solga said fluoride has benefits, but is a toxic substance if intake is not strongly controlled. Solga also said there are alternate ways to deliver fluoride aside from drinking water.

Borough Mayor Gary Hess said the council might want to consider posing the issue to voters in the form of a ballot referendum.