Fluoride Action Network

Washington Supreme Court to review fluoridation in Port Angeles

Source: Peninsula Daily News | May 10th, 2009 | By Tom Callis

PORT ANGELES — The state Supreme Court will decide if Port Angeles residents can vote to remove fluoride from their drinking water supply.

The Supreme Court announced on April 30 that it will review two lower court decisions that threw out two initiatives presented to the Port Angeles City Council in September 2006.

The city began adding between 0.7 parts per million and 1.2 parts per million of fluoride to the city’s drinking water supply in May 2006.

Port Angeles and Forks are the only North Olympic Peninsula cities with fluoridated water.

Fluoridation in Port Angeles was the result of a contract signed March 2005 with the Washington Dental Services Foundation. The intention was to help prevent tooth decay.

Kitsap County Superior Court Judge Karlynn Haberly and the state Court of Appeals ruled that the initiatives by the groups Our Water — Our Choice! and Protect Our Waters were not eligible to be placed on a city ballot because they dealt with administrative instead of legislative matters, which is beyond the scope of the initiative process.

Appeal denied

The Supreme Court denied a direct appeal in November 2007.

The most recent appeal was filed by Our Water — Our Choice!, Protect Our Waters, and Protect the Peninsula’s Future. Attorney Gerald Steel of Olympia is representing all three groups.

City Attorney Bill Bloor and City Manager Kent Myers couldn’t be reached for comment on Friday or Saturday.

Bloor was out of town, said city spokeswoman Teresa Pierce, and in his absence, the city’s legal department staff declined to comment, she said.

Sequim physician Eloise Kailin of Protect the Peninsula’s Future said the groups have until June 30 to file a brief in support of their appeal.

“We have to argue the right to have a local initiative,” she said. “Right now, both the Superior Court and appeals court have said that local initiatives have to follow a much stringer standard for them to be voted on.”

Lynn Lohr, a member of Our Water — Our Choice, was relieved to hear that the Supreme Court will review the court rulings.

She said she is allergic to fluoride, and that her mouth breaks out with sores when she drinks fluoridated water.

“I’m very happy because, for almost three years now, I’ve been suffering,” she said.

The initiative introduced by Our Water — Our Choice! sought to prohibit medication of people through drinking water.

The Protect Our Waters initiative sought to prohibit the introduction of anything into the city’s drinking water intended to act as a drug unless it is approved by the federal Food and Drug Administration.

The initiatives were submitted to the city with about 4,250 signatures.

The city used a $260,000 grant from the Washington Dental Service Foundation to help pay for the fluoridation system. The cost of fluoridation to the city is roughly $10,000 annually.

The groups opposed to fluoridation argue that fluoride is a medication, which people should not be forced to take.

“There are no bones about whether its administered to treat tooth decay,” Kailin said.

“So it should be treated as a medication, and people should have a right to say yes or no to medication.”

Protect the Peninsula’s Future, which focuses on land use, is opposed to fluoridation partly because fluoridated water gets into the land and marine waters, Kailin said.

The city Economic and Community Development Department determined in October 2003 and March 2004 that fluoridation would not have a significant environmental impact.