YORK — The York City Council voted 8-0 Thursday night to repeal a 30-year-old policy and begin fluoridation of drinking water.
The third of three public hearings again attracted strong support from local doctors, dentists and other health specialists wearing pro-fluoridation stickers. It also attracted rock-solid opposition from an apparently small but vocal group of residents.
Among the proponents of repeal and of fluoride‘s reputation for preventing tooth decay was local dentist Mark Brouillette. “This is for the children in York,” Brouillette said. “This is for everybody in York.”
Despite the unanimous vote, City Council member Margaret Brink, also president of the York County Board of Health, said she’s not ruling out the possibility of a petition drive and a referendum vote on the issue.
Brink described fluoride opponent Wesley Trollope as “an interesting, interesting character, and he will pursue it to the nth degree.”
Trollope, 74, testified Thursday night against repeal. He said afterward that he did indeed plan to proceed with a petition drive during the 30-day holding period that will precede fluoridation.
In his appearance before the mayor and City Council, he called fluoride “a deadly accumulating poison,” said residents should be the ones to choose what’s in their water and compared himself to John Paul Jones in saying, “I have just begun to fight.”
Trollope has run an advertisement in the local newspaper under the headline “Keep York’s Water Pure.” He included Mayor Greg Adams’ home telephone number in the ad and urged readers to tell city officials that “every citizen has the right to a water supply free from drugs or chemicals not required for the purification of the water itself.”
All three public hearings on the repeal ordinance attracted much larger audiences than usual.
The first two established that more than 70 percent of Nebraska residents, including the populations of Lincoln and Omaha, drink water with fluoride added to it to prevent tooth decay. They referenced a state law passed in the 1970s that says all cities must fluoridate unless there is a local vote to the contrary.
Among cities not on the list is Grand Island. Grand Island Utilities Director Gary Mader said Thursday that the City Council there began fluoridation in the 1990s only to be quickly overruled by their constituents.
“There was a referendum and a vote of the people terminating fluoridation after six months,” Mader said.
York City Council member Brink said she regards the roots of opposition as fear, not scientific opinion. “There’s something scary about people putting something in your water, even though it’s good stuff,” she said.
Brink’s support for fluoridation fits in with community efforts to raise children with healthy teeth. “And some of them, quite honestly, can’t afford to pay to go see the dentist.”