SHREWSBURY – Town meeting rejected an article that would have discontinued the town’s 63-year practice of putting fluoride in the drinking water.

Town meeting last year also turned down an attempt by Bryan Moss, Precinct 9 member, to stop fluoridation of the town’s drinking water. Mr. Moss and two other proponents pointed out that people should have the right to decide whether to consume fluoride in their drinking water. They also cited studies that they said show that fluoride can cause lower IQs in children and other health problems.

A chemical engineer who said she is also an attorney who has a family history of breast cancer said her physician suggested several preventive steps, including limiting exposure to artificially fluoridated water. She said the type of fluoride the town uses, hydrofluoricsycilic acid, is a toxin from the fertilizer industry.

Bob Tozeski, the sewer and water commissioner, said the town does use a liquid form of hydrofluoricsycilic acid that contains 23 percent fluoride. But the hydrofluoricsylicic acid the town uses is not a product of the fertilizer industry.

Dr. Maria Narducci, a member of the town Board of Health, said she doesn’t disagree that people should have the right to make their own decisions. But, it’s not easy to discern all the studies and research about fluoride, she said.

“I think the standard medical community would tell you that fluoride is safe and the medical community in general supports it,” she said.

Melisa Hollenbeck, Precinct 9 town meeting member, said she has no problem with the water, but the town should consider the problems manganese is causing to the drinking water. The naturally occurring mineral has caused discolored water all summer and there are concerns it could cause health problems. The last article on the warrant seeks to fund a $14.9 million new water treatment plant to help eliminate manganese.

“There’s a serious lack of trust of the town over the water supply,” she said. “If we don’t need it … if it’s not mandated and we’re having such a confidence (problem) now, you might not want to put it in.”

Town meeting also shot down another citizen petition article that was rejected at a previous town meeting.

The article advocated by John Lukach, Precinct 2 town meeting member, would have given town meeting authority to approve water rates instead of the Board of Selectmen. The same article was defeated at the annual town meeting in May.

Mr. Lukach’s contention is that the top residential water rate of $14 per thousand gallons is not equitable compared with the $4.30 per thousand top water rate for commercial users. He said the average of residential rates of several other comparable communities is $6.93 per thousand, or 60 percent lower than Shrewsbury’s.

“Town officials have not been able to and haven’t tried to refute the major arguments I made at (the annual town meeting). I also believe this article did not receive a fair hearing in May,” Mr. Lukach stated as his reason for bringing the article back a second time. “The original reason for differing rates no longer applies.”

He said that starting in 2003, residential water rates became higher compared with commercial rates in order to get residential daily consumption under state limit of 65 gallons. Shrewsbury has been below this limit since 2007, he said.

Town Manager Daniel Morgado said up to 28,000 gallons of water residential rate payers actually pay less than commercial users.

The rate change above 28,000 gallons affects less than one percent of residential customers, he said. He said 68 percent of total water consumption is residential and 68 percent of revenue comes from residential.

“For every gallon of water that goes through commercial meter 4.27 gallons go through a residential meter,” Mr. Morgado said.

At the end of the special town meeting Monday night, members agreed to approve two bond issues totaling $14.9 million to build a state-of-the-art water treatment plant to eliminate manganese.

The mineral, which occurs naturally in water and soil in the Northeast, has caused discolored water. While manganese is found in most foods and is essential for proper body function, excessive long-term exposure could have adverse implications, including neurological problems, particularly for infants.

Town meeting approved a $13.98 million bond that would be a loan at 2 percent interest through the state Revolving Fund. The remainder, $900,000, will come through conventional financing. Mr. Morgado said water rates will be increased to pay for the bond issues.

The existing plant, constructed in the early 1990s, can’t handle the process of removing manganese

The new plant, which would use biological filtration technology that removes the mineral at the source, would be the largest of its kind in New England and one of the largest in the country. The new plant will be constructed next to the current facility which will be taken down afterwards. Construction is scheduled to begin next spring and be completed in two years.