Debate over fluoride continues in Snowmass |

Debate over fluoride continues in Snowmass

Jill Beathard
The Aspen Times

A board of directors decided 10 days ago to stop adding fluoride to drinking water in Snowmass Village, but elected officials and some residents are not done with the discussion.

Mayor Markey Butler said at a council meeting last week that she had received numerous calls from residents about the decision, voted on by the board of directors of the Snowmass Water and Sanitation District on July 17. While the Town Council does not have authority over the water district, Butler hopes to facilitate more public discussion.

“We don’t have any governance over (the water district), but I do know on behalf of concerned citizens within our community, we need to have some more information,” Butler said.

Butler has communicated with water board President Joe Farrell, who was the lone vote against discontinuing fluoridation and supports having more public discussion, although he was hoping to have it before the vote. Farrell said the rest of the board agrees it would be beneficial now, as well.

“The guys who voted to stop the fluoridation are confident that’s the way it’s going to be and the more people that get educated, the better,” Farrell said Friday.

The water board could overturn its decision, but in order to do so, one of the three members who voted in the majority would have to make a motion to reconsider it, Farrell said.

When the water district began discussing the issue in the spring, the Snowmass Rotary Club scheduled Snowmass Village dentist Karina Redko in its rotation of speakers at its weekly meetings. On Wednesday, Redko went forward as planned with her presentation on drinking-water fluoridation, which she said she has researched extensively over the past year, looking at both sides of the issue “out of respect” for her neighbors and patients who oppose it.

“I have researched both sides of this extensively, and there is no valid science whatsoever that fluoride is harmful for us in the doses that we are receiving it in the water, which is 0.7 parts per million,” she said Friday.

But there are other factors at play in the decision to fluoridate public water, she said, including water science, which the district employees monitor, and public policy. Many of the questions she heard after her presentation Wednesday were from residents who said they hadn’t been aware the district’s board was going to vote on the issue that day, she said.

Butler said that was her reason for wanting to re-engage the public.

“There didn’t appear to be much public input,” said Councilman Bob Sirkus at the July 20 council meeting. “It didn’t appear to be advertised to the public as to what was going to be discussed.”

Councilman Bill Madsen said he agreed with the board’s decision, though.

“I think it was a pretty bold and interesting move by the water board,” Madsen said. “I think it was the right move. There’s opportunity for everyone in an established community to get fluoride. I don’t think we need to be putting it in our water.”

Notices of the board’s meeting, which was rescheduled from its original date, were posted at the Snowmass Center and at Snowmass Village Town Hall as well as on the district’s website. The agenda item for the fluoride topic read “Continued Discussion on Water Fluoridation,” which some residents have said they didn’t understand to mean that the board would be making a decision. The meeting was attended by two dental professionals who favored fluoridation and a journalist.

The district didn’t intend to exclude anyone, Farrell said.

“We came up with this decision, and it wasn’t an antagonistic thing,” he said. “It was, we want to do what’s best for our customers, and we just have different ideas of what is best for our customers.”

Another discussion has not been scheduled yet, but the town is open to working with the water district to make sure the public can weigh in, said Travis Elliott, assistant to the town manager. The council’s next meeting is Aug. 3, and while a fluoride discussion is not set for that session, customers could speak during time set aside for public comment, said Town Manager Clint Kinney.