By Benjamin Gohs, News Editor
Fluoridation of Boyne City’s municipal water supply will go on the Nov. 4 ballot for voters to decide.
The Boyne City Commission voted unanimously on Tuesday Aug. 12 to OK the ballot measure after a citizens group obtained the necessary number of signatures to meet the statutory requirement last week.
“As I said before, if the required amount of signatures was gotten by the registered voters on the petitions, I would support the fluoride issue to go on the November ballot,” said Boyne City Commissioner Delbert “Gene” Towne, one of three commissioners who originally voted to end the practice of fluoridating the city’s drinking water.
The Boyne City Commission voted 3-2 on Tuesday May 13 to stop adding fluoride to Boyne City’s municipal water supply.
Boyne City Commissioner Derek Gaylord, who also had voted to end the practice, agreed the matter should be placed on the November ballot but questioned the public’s level of knowledge on the issue.
“I had heard from an individual who signed the petition … last week and had an opportunity to ask them … did they know what was actually going in the water—how was it presented to them—and their answer was, ‘Well, it’s fluoride.’ And I said was there any discussion of hydrofluorosilicic acid and they said, ‘I have no idea what you’re talking about,’” Gaylord said. “(I) gave a brief tutorial that hydrofluorosilicic acid was in use, was purchased through Haviland products out of Grand Rapids and they obtain it from a company out of Florida called Mosaic, which is a phosphate mining company, and it is a collection of toxins that couldn’t be released into the air. That’s a hundred percent fact.”
Boyne City had been using fluoride since 1973, when it was approved by voters 295 to 148 on Nov. 6 of that year.
Boyne City Commissioner Laura Sansom—the other commissioner who had voted to end fluoridation—echoed Gaylord’s comments, adding that she had spoken to some people about this issue as well.
“I, too, talked to a number of people who signed the petition, and just simply asked them what type of fluoride is being used,” she said. “And they said, ‘Well isn’t fluoride fluoride?’ I said, ‘Well, not all fluoride is exactly the same…’ So people are not really educated as to exactly what type of chemical is being used, and when I tell them it’s hydrofluorosilicic acid they look at me like I’m crazy and they go, ‘What in the world is that?’”
Sansom then asked who drafted the following proposed ordinance language and was told it was written by Attorney Jim Young: “For the purpose of promoting public health through prevention of dental disease, the city manager is hereby directed to establish and maintain fluoride levels in the city’s waterworks system as prescribed by the State of Michigan. The city manager shall establish a testing program that accurately show fluoride levels in the public water supply on a monthly basis and those results shall be posted on the city website within 30 days after the test results have been obtained.”
The effort to get the fluoride issue on the ballot came to fruition last week when local citizens group Citizens United for Dental Health collected 99 more signatures than it needed.
The group presented the city with 747 signatures—647 of which matched the Boyne City voter registration list—though only 548 signatures were necessary to have the proposed ordinance language appear on the ballot this fall.
By city statute, the Boyne City Commission then had three options: place the matter on the November ballot, wait 30 days and decide to OK the matter for the February ballot or adopt the matter outright at the Tuesday Aug. 12 meeting.
Sansom then asked if any Boyne City officials had approved the language and was told that was not necessary.
“Do we know what type of fluoride will be put back in the water?” Sansom said.
Sansom said she felt the petition was misleading the public, and asked if the commission would have the ability to determine what kind of fluoride would be used.
Boyne City Mayor Ron Grunch said the options would have to be presented to the commission if, and when, the matter reaches that point.
Boyne City Commissioner Tom Neidhamer said everything done to the water is regulated.
“It’s a non-issue,” he said. “It’s 100 percent regulated and safe.”
Boyne City Water/Wastewater Superintendent Dan Meads said the chemicals that are used to treat the water are monitored by the state and federal government.
“I think that over 700 signatures proves without a doubt that people are mad and people are upset and people are in favor of fluoride, and the whole process is done by professionals and the whole process is supported by professionals,” Neidhamer said. “Trust the professionals.”
A motion to place the matter on the November ballot was unanimously approved.
Several people spoke on the matter during the public comment portion of the meeting.
“When you voted a couple months ago to withdraw fluoride from the city water, from overturning a valid(ly) held referendum, you are essentially challenging the citizens, your constituents, ‘If you feel that strongly about it, prove your point.’ We did prove our point,” said Boyne City resident and long-time dentist Dr. Richard Fish. “We went out and got nearly 700 signatures in less than 14 days. So the ball is back in your court.”
He added, “I think the commissioners should … get your head out of the sand, take the blinders off, listen to what the people have said. The right thing to do would be to put that (fluoride) back in the water tonight.”
Ward Collins, who worked to help gather signatures for the petition drive, said, of all the people he spoke with, only two of more than 70 declined to sign the petition to get fluoride back in the city water.
“The city, in general, strongly supports fluoridation, along with the medical profession, the dental industry and practically anybody you talk to,” he said. “And, if you choose not to reverse your decision, I would encourage you to allow it to be put on the ballot as soon as possible.”
Dr. Tom Veryser said he works with the poorest of the poor in his work with 25 dental health clinics across the state, and to deny this method of preventing tooth decay would be a travesty.
“For the public good, and you are entrusted to uphold the public good, you must put fluoride back in the water,” he said.
Veryser said those people who wished to avoid fluoride could easily remove fluoride from their water using a reverse osmosis system or some other filtration device.
Sansom disagreed, saying the cheapest filtration system she found that would remove the substance was nearly $1,500 initially and $100 per month in filters.
“I don’t think that’s real economical,” she said.
Veryser responded, “So what we’re talking about is your particular need versus the need of the community.”
Sansom then asked him if he was aware that one percent of the population was allergic to fluoride.
Sansom was then asked if she had proof of her alleged fluoride allergy statistic. She was asked if she had a reference or a peer reviewed study to back up her claim. She said she did not have any with her at the time, but that she had researched the matter.