VALPARAISO — The last step in continuing to add fluoride to the city’s water is expected with a City Council vote at Monday’s meeting.
Despite the summer-long study by a special commission with experts from both sides weighing in and a 110-page report issued by the Valparaiso City Utilities Fluoride Commission in August, the issue isn’t necessarily settled.
The City Utilities Board’s Sept. 23 resolution to the City Council recommends not only continuing fluoridation but revisiting the matter in at least five years.
The Utilities Board noted that in 2011, the Centers for Disease Control lowered the recommended level in public water from .7 to 1.2 milligrams of fluoride per liter of water to just .7 milligrams per liter, and the Board suggests Valparaiso watch for other changes.
“The matter of fluoridation will always be a debate for years to come, and I think it was important to have a transparent and open debate,” City Utilities Director Steve Poulos said. “I think you’ll find both sides will say they had a fair shake.”
Along with the report on the matter, the Fluoride Commission collected more than 150 documents and items that it’s made available on the utility department’s website.
“I thought the process was very thorough. We gave each side the opportunity to present their material,” said David Bengs, both the Fluoride Commission and Utility Board President. “We brought in some of the most nationally known experts in their field.”
The Board’s vote for fluoridation wasn’t unanimous, with Board Member Mark Thiros voting against it, as he did with Jennifer Waldo on the Fluoride Commission.
Thiros said that through the meetings and research, it was clear fluoride’s effectiveness comes from direct contact with teeth rather than from ingestion.
“I wasn’t convinced that the minimal amount of fluoride we add to the water provides enough of a benefit to continue it,” he said.
Because the city isn’t mandated to provide fluoride, “I feel our main mission is to provide the safest and cleanest water we can to our citizens,” Thiros said. “Where do you draw the line on what you choose to add or not to the water”?
Gary Foreman, the resident who brought the matter to the city and organized the opposition, stated in a September email, “We are disappointed at this time but not entirely surprised.”
In another statement Foreman sent to Fluoride Commission facilitator Stu Walesh and the Post-Tribune Thursday, he wrote, “We will continue to implore the city leaders to reconsider what we believe is an unwise and unsafe decision.”