Benjamin Gohs, Editor
The fluoride issue that was supposed to have been settled at the Tuesday Nov. 4 general election was again the topic of heated debate among Boyne area residents and officials at the Tuesday Nov. 11 Boyne City Commission Meeting.
Several members of the public as well as public officials—both for and against fluoridation—once again discussed the process’s alleged good and bad attributes following an update on the matter by Boyne City Commissioner Michael Cain.
“The results of the election are not that much different than they were in 1973 (when fluoridation was originally approved in Boyne City),” said Cain. “Since the vote has taken place, we have basically been notified by the county clerk that our local election results have been certified by the board of canvassers.”
He added, “We’ve reviewed the results of the fluoride vote with our city attorney and see no obstacles to implementing the results and the objectives of that vote.”
The ballot measure to reinstate the use of fluoridation of the city’s municipal water supply passed by a 2:1 margin in the general election.
Cain said the city’s fluoride-related equipment, which was taken out of use following the city commission’s May 13 meeting—when Boyne City Commissioners Delbert “Gene” Towne, Laura Sansom and Derek Gaylord decided to stop the decades-long practice of water fluoridation—is being readied for re-implementation.
“The fluoride that has been ordered has been delivered,” said Cain. “We’re using basically the exact same product we’ve been using for the last 41 years.”
Boyne City Water/Wastewater Superintendent Dan Meads said since the voters approved the re-implementation of the fluoridation of the city’s water system, his department has set the system back up and is ready to resume fluoridation with the National Sanitation Foundation approved chemical—hydrofluorosilicic acid—that the city has been using.
Barring further action by the city commission, the fluoridation was expected to resume on Wednesday Nov. 19.
However, Gaylord, who requested the fluoridation issue be placed on the city’s agenda for the Nov. 11 meeting for further discussion, said he would like to see the city switch to a different fluoridation chemical.
“I am fully prepared to spend whatever it takes to make sure the citizens—those almost 400 for sure that didn’t want it back in the water system—have something added to the water that’s as minimal with impurities that we can legally do,” he said.
Sansom said the voters voted for “fluoride” but not “fluorosilicic acid” despite that having been the same substance which has been put in Boyne’s municipal water supply for the past 41 years.
According to Sansom, there are other substances in the hydrofluorosilicic acid including arsenic, uranium, aluminum and lead.
“They wanted fluoride, they got fluoride,” said Sansom, who said the city should start using “pharmaceutical grade” fluoride.
She added, “I know it’s going to cost more in equipment and space but I think we need to work that out.”
Boyne City retired doctor Richard Fish spoke during the public comment portion of Cain’s report, reminding those in attendance that the three commissioners who ended fluoridation did so in the face of overwhelming opposition by the local community.
“We plead with them to reverse their action and they declined to do so, and they said well if you feel that strongly about it then get out a referendum petition, get it on the ballot,” said Fish. “We retained over 700 signatures in less than 14 days. It was on the ballot. The results of the election this last Tuesday overwhelmingly supported by a vote of 2:1.”
He added, “I don’t know what there is about the Democratic process that the three of you don’t understand.”
Fish said the citizens who supported fluoridation did what the commission asked, and they won.
“I can tell you that the committee is still in existence, and if any part of this city commission wants to delay, interfere, postpone the addition of fluoride to the water, this committee will do immediate … action against them,” he said. “We’re not going to stand by… The people have spoken and I think you people need to get on with what you were elected to do—not your own agenda.”
Gaylord said there may be discussion on what type of fluoride will be added to the system but not whether the fluoride would be added.
“I don’t recall anyone on this commission saying we’re going to interfere with the implementation of fluoride,” he said. “I’m not sure where that came from… That being said, we are definitely going to look at … the equipment we had in there, and if we need to invest in new equipment.”
Gaylord then asked Meads to explain what new equipment was being added, why the city didn’t have it before, and why it is needed now.
“There was no new equipment that needed to be purchased,” said Meads. “When the vote passed, I told the city manager that it would take one to two weeks to prepare and get ready to reintroduce fluoride back into the system.”
He added, “It’s a bit more difficult to turn it on correctly than it is to turn it off.”
Meads said he needs to order one probe to replace an older one and he needs to fix a scale that was working when the system was shut down but has since been discovered to have a faulty part.
Wilson Township resident Michael Buttigieg said he hoped the commissioners would further research the issue before once again fluoridating the water.
“The practice of artificial fluoridation is the height of arrogance when one considers the overwhelming scientific evidence supporting this concern,” he said. “I believe the information was incomplete and misleading. I also believe that, given a chemical analysis and origin about this neurotoxic cocktail, it would have never been placed on the ballot.”
Buttigieg added, “Our clean water is vital, not only to the health of us humans but our whole ecosystem. With all the new information that is constantly being available I would question the motive behind the need to pollute our drinking water.”
He also said the levels of chemicals like those in the fluoridation process accumulate in the body over time.
“If you’re against it going back in, I empathize, but the voters have spoken, so it’s going back in,” Gaylord said.
Ward Collins, who supports water fluoridation, talked to the commission about his experiences in gathering signatures door-to-door for the referendum petition.
“I think I obtained about 70 signatures in my neighborhood, and of all the people I talked to, only two declined to sign the petition,” he said. “But what the petition doesn’t really say is the comments that were made to me about ‘what in the world does the city commission think they’re doing overturning the election (in 1973) or the vote of the people?’”
Collins added, “There’s a lot of people that are very nervous that the city commission can frustrate what the public has voted to do, so I think I would like to suggest that the city not make any efforts to frustrate the implementation of fluoride.”
Leslie Neilson of Boyne City, who said she has a science background, said she was shocked to discover fluoride is a “toxic waste product” of the fertilizer industry.
“Fifty percent of all the waste product/by-product from the fertilizer industry does contain arsenic and it also contains traces of other materials and those are bio-accumulative and those do build up in our system,” she said.
Neilson said just a month ago she was happy, assuming that fluoride was good for human teeth.
“Now that I know what I know, I can’t not know it,” she said. “And, on here (ballot language), it says ‘Vote yes for fluoride.’ It doesn’t say ‘Vote yes for fluoride, arsenic, mercury, lead, radionucleotides.’ It doesn’t say that”
Neilson added, “And all of our dentists and doctors will agree that it’s more effective when it’s (used) topically.”
Neilson said the city should supply whole house water filtration systems to the citizens who do not want fluoride in their water.
“There’s been a lot of talk about the safety of the public water system,” said Meads. “Our water system is tested for … over 170 different contaminants. It’s tested on a regular basis and in no area are we above any action level—that’s with the fluoride in the water. It is not contaminated. It is not a health risk.”
District Engineer Brian Thurston, with the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality, discussed the NSF’s regulations.
“All chemicals added to the water have to meet the same health standards that they don’t have other products within that water that’s going to make it detrimental to putting it in the water system,” he said.
Gaylord asked what the arsenic level in city water is since the hydrofluorosilicic acid was removed.
Meads said the last time the water was tested for arsenic—in 2011—it was not detected.
Gaylord asked that the water be tested before the hydrofluorosilicic acid be added back to the system.
The city’s water is currently tested for arsenic, and other substances, every nine years, per regulations.
“If there’s no issues, I think a baseline would be prudent in this matter,” said Gaylord. “Therefore, if anybody has any questions, then we can always refer back and say here’s what it was with … nothing added.”
Gaylord asked about the possibility of changing from liquid hydrofluorosilicic acid to the powdered sodium fluoride.
Thurston said sodium fluoride is much more difficult to handle and puts the operators of the system at more of a risk of exposure.
Meads added that the city doesn’t have room for the additional equipment that would be needed to switch over to the sodium fluoride.
Thurston said, typically, sodium fluoride is used by larger water systems.
Sansom said the voters have been mislead and deceived into believing hydrofluorosilicic acid is the same as fluoride.
Collins said both chemicals act the same once they are mixed with water.
Sansom suggested the city use sodium fluoride instead of the chemical they have been using.
“Are we delivering the safest product in the safest manner?” Boyne City Commissioner Tom Neidhamer asked.
Meads said the chemicals the city has been using are both safe and cost-effective.
Following commissioner discussion, Cain spoke up about the city’s adopted goals, and how arguing over water fluoridation has never been one of them.
“It’s been said multiple times that the voters have spoken,” Cain said… “I think we have an informed electorate who knew the topic as well or better than most topics that people go to the polls to vote on. I think they heard all about fluorosilicic acid. I think they heard about fluoride. They knew what they were voting on, and the vote has taken place.”
He added, “Right now, I’m seeing something that’s happening in Boyne City I’m not too pleased with. It’s a distraction from the business of this community… It is not consistent with any of the goals and processes that we have, and what I’m seeing with regards to the conversations that are taking place are probably more toxic than anything we’re talking about putting into the water.”
Cain said Boyne can be the community that focuses on fighting over fluoride, if the city commission chooses to do so, but added that that is not what has made Boyne City a great community over the years.
“I think it’s important for this commission to keep this in perspective and not further divide this community or to take other steps that I think could happen next, and I’d really hate to see those happen in this community,” he said. “There has been talk of recall; there’s been talks of all sorts of things that will tear this community apart.”
No actions were taken by the commission. Boyne City Commissioner Delbert “Gene” Towne was absent.