Potsdam village board continues to research water fluoridation issue
Wednesday, December 6, 2017 - 11:46 am

By CRAIG FREILICH

POTSDAM -- What was thought to be an impediment to making a decision about continuing water fluoridation might not be a consideration at all, the village attorney says.

Village administrator Greg Thompson warned in July that the equipment the village has used to add fluoride – a popular tooth decay prevention measure in the U.S. for decades – is old and might need repair or replacement soon.

Officials of village government have said that if the cost of fixing the village's fluoridation equipment is too high, the village might just abandon fluoridating the water.

That promoted some debate of the perennial and controversial issue of whether fluoridation is a good thing or not.

A question of who "owned" the village's Raquette River water supply arose since it was thought to have some bearing on what the village could do under state law about fluoridation, but Village Attorney Andrew Silver has looked at applicable law and says he doesn't believe that ownership is a factor.

"It doesn't matter," Thompson says.

Thompson has looked at the law too, and says he and Silver "are in full agreement" that the issue of ownership of the river resources would not apply to any decision regarding fluoridation.

New York public health law outlines how a municipality may discontinue fluoridation, and part of the law talks about ownership of the local water supply and the system that delivers it. The Board of Trustees thought they would have to find out if the village owned the water supply before they moved on the issue.

But another section of the law says that, regardless of any water ownership question, a municipality must only issue a public notice inviting comment and debate of the issue of continuing fluoridation or not, and send the state Department of Health 90 days' notice before discontinuance.

The desire of the community to continue the controversial practice of adding fluoride to municipal water is subject to strong feelings on both sides based on longstanding conflicting evidence of its effectiveness and potential danger.

The village applied for and has received a grant to study the condition of the fluoridation equipment, but Thompson says the grant might not have to be used.

The grant will remain in place until February 2018, Thompson says, but he hopes village authorities "can come to a conclusion before then so that we can turn the grant back" to the state.