Survey to cost more than drop in the bucket
The Snowmass Water & Sanitation District plans on asking its customers – all 3,400 of them – whether or not their water should be fluoridated.
The district will poll property owners in Snowmass Village and Brush Creek, as well as affected renters and tenants, about what has become a controversial decision to remove fluoride from that local drinking water supply.
“The board decided to move forward with a survey,” said district manager Kit Hamby. It will be a mail-in survey that will be sent out and tabulated by an independent auditing firm out of Grand Junction.
The survey will run between $7,000-$10,000, he said, which will come from the district’s administrative budget.
Hamby said he didn’t expect answers to be available until at least October. In the meantime, the district will refrain from adding fluoride, a powdered material that comes in 25-pound bags, into the water system.
“We stopped adding it on July 17,” one day after the board voted 3-1 to stop fluoridating the water. President Joe Farrell was the lone fluoride supporter at that meeting; vice president Dave Dawson and colleagues Michael Shore and Willard Humphrey “all voted to take it out,” Hamby said.
The decision to poll water users came during a meeting held last week. The fluoridation issue has overshadowed most other board issues since an April decision by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recommended the standard be lowered from 7 to 1.2 milligrams per liter to a maximum concentration of 0.7
“The board started talking about it then,” Hamby said, “and the discussion continued for four consecutive meetings.”
The public has been “passionate on both sides,” he added, during Water & Sanitation meetings and an Aug. 3 town council meeting. During the latter session, proponents, including a Snowmass VIllage dentist, emphasized the widespread health benefits of fluoridation that go well beyond one’s teeth.
“Now that our water fluoridation program has ceased, I am incredibly concerned about the health of our community, especially our children and older adults,” Karina Redko testified at the time.
Redko also opined that a photo of a worker that ran in this newspaper who was dressed in a Haz-Mat suit while adding fluoride to water may have inflamed local passions against what she believes is a worthy additive.
Opponents including Water & Sanitation board member Dawson defended the decision, claiming, “it would be totally irresponsible if I would vote for the inclusion of this substance in the water.”
It was at that August meeting when Mayor Markey Butler asked if the fluoride discussion could be reopened, as some in the community said they were surprised by the board’s decision.
Hamby said the decision wasn’t made without a lot of back-and-forth discussion and study, but did agree to reopen the debate.
“People now are questioning, more than ever, why we’re adding fluoride to our water,” he said.
Denver is also looking closely at the fluoridation issue and taped a recent forum that looks at evidence from both sides of the debate. A link to the forum is available at http://www.swsd.org/fluoride.
The public may weigh in with an opinion on that site as well.
Will Denver join Colorado Springs in removing it or stand with Fort Collins in retaining fluoride?
Another meeting of the Snowmass Water & Sanitation board is scheduled for Aug. 28 at 8:30 a.m. And, while fluoride isn’t even included on the agenda, Hamby said he expects the issue to rise up again.
“I’m sure that our board will take more public comments,” he said.