In about-face, Snowmass resumes adding fluoride to water | AspenTimes.com
Jill Beathard
The Aspen Times

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In about-face, Snowmass resumes adding fluoride to water

The Snowmass Water and Sanitation District has reversed its decision to stop adding fluoride to local public water, voting 3-2 Wednesday to resume the practice immediately.

The board, which had voted 3-1 to discontinue fluoridation in July, had mixed feelings about the issue Wednesday. Michael Shore, who voted against fluoride in July, said he's still personally opposed to the practice but couldn't ignore the wishes of the 64 percent of customers who favored fluoride in a mail-in survey the district conducted throughout last month.

"I personally am against fluoridating the water, but I have to vote democratically," Shore said. "If they're 2-1 in favor of fluoridation, I personally feel as a board member that I have to go with how the community feels."

Board member David Dawson remained steadfast in his opposition to fluoride, saying that he interpreted the results of the survey differently. Thirty-eight percent of the 3,099 households who received the survey responded, which he said might not be representative of the whole customer base. People who don't want fluoride might have thought they didn't need to participate because of the board's previous action, he said.

"We are not bound by that survey," he said.

Tim Belinski, who was not present for the July meeting called the discussion an "imperfect debate" but said he didn't feel he could argue with the research presented by health professionals at the meeting. He moved to resume fluoridation, and he, Shore and board President Joe Farrell voted in favor.

Dawson then requested that the district wait a month so that he could install a system for removing fluoride in his home, as could other residents opposed to fluoride. But the rest of the board agreed the change should take effect immediately.

"I say if we're going back in, we're going back in," said Willard Humphrey, who joined Dawson in voting against fluoridation again Wednesday.

Dawson also proposed that the district compensate residents for systems they purchase to remove fluoride from water in their homes, but the board did not support that either. Dawson abruptly left the meeting after the fluoride decision even though there were other items on the agenda.

"I'm not sure how I feel about my relationship with the water board at this point," he said after the vote.

Public comment

The decision came after more than two hours of public comment by more than 20 individuals, ranging from Snowmass water customers to dental and medical professionals to residents of nearby towns also passionate about the issue. The only two members of the public present at the July meeting were two dentists who voiced their support for fluoridation.

Resident Cris Cuda Dawson, David Dawson's wife, called the pressure on the board to reverse its decision "bulls—."

"I can't believe we would even consider putting this toxin, a well-known neurotoxin in our water," she said. "I'm tired of these scare tactics. I believe you guys (the board members) are smart enough to know that this is wrong."

Longtime Snowmass Village resident Jim Gustafson summed it up when he said that everyone in the room had "strongly held opinions — I suspect that none of those opinions are going to change this morning."

But Gustafson supported fluoride, having raised three daughters in Snowmass who have never had cavities and now has two grandchildren growing up in the village.

"I think the survey is a true indication" of how water customers feel on the issue, he said. "The board should take that into consideration."

jill@snowmasssun.com