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Still no decision on fluoride in our drinking water

Published on September 22, 2014
Drinking water

CORNWALL, Ontario - City council still can’t make up its mind on whether to add fluoride to our drinking water.

Yet again council shelved a decision on the matter Monday night, and will seek insights from individuals on both sides of the controversial issue at a subsequent council meeting.

The move left some city councillors perplexed Monday night.

“I find it ironic that we’re going to go through this again,” said Coun. Glen Grant. “We’ve had how many reports from (medical office of health Paul Roumeliotis)? Dammit if we need more information, I don’t know how much more information we need. The answers are there.”

Council has booted around the issue for more than a year, including a debate in July 2013.

“We had a full debate about this last year,” said Coun. Bernadette Clement. “Debating over again seems a bit odd.”

Roumeliotis is expected to make a presentation to council in favour of adding fluoride to our drinking water, while another individual making opposing arguments will be sought as well.

Critics have argued the risks of using chemicals to treat the water present too many risks to workers, while also creating a danger for those who consume it.

But medical professionals have long suggested the benefits of water fluoridation, especially in terms of dental care, far outweigh other concerns.

The decision for councillors could boil down to money, as it is expected to cost as much as $300,000 to upgrade the water treatment plant, as well as an extra $50,000 a year in operational expenses.

There are also concerns for municipal workers that handle the so-called "hydrofluorosilicic acid" that is used to create fluoride in the water.

"There are significant health and safety risks associated with handling this product," said environmental services manager Morris McCormick in a report to council. "Hydrofluorosilicic acid vapours react with moisture in the air to produce a very corrosive environment that can cause severe skin and eye burns. Contact with liquid hydrofluorosilicic acid can also cause severe burns.

"Of particular concern is the effects of contact with this product may be delayed. Damage can occur without initial onset of pain. Treatment may be too late to prevent damage."

Cornwall has gone months without fluoride in drinking water because of worker safety concerns at the treatment plant.