By Mary Spicer
VERNON TOWNSHIP —
A crowd of almost 20 members of the local community filled the Meadville Area Water Authority conference room Monday night when a group of local residents organized under the name Community Initiative for Improved Dental Health presented a plea for what they described as “optimal fluoridation of the Meadville community water system.”
The group, which came together approximately a year ago, includes representation from the local dental community, pediatric physicians, Meadville Medical Center, Allegheny College and Crawford Central School District.
Following video and oral presentations arguing the case in favor of fluoridation, four members of the audience presented opposing views, expressing a wide range of concerns.
Dr. Denise Johnson, Meadville Medical Center’s chief medical officer and the lead presenter on behalf of CIIDH, said that many of the objections raised during the session were answered in her group’s 111-page report.
Copies of the report were left for authority members to examine, as were reports cited by those opposing fluoridation.
“This is not going to be an easy decision, but we need to look at both sides of the story,” MAWA Chairman Tim Groves said.
Saying that MAWA’s monthly meeting simply isn’t a suitable forum for a real debate on any topic, Ted Watts Sr., the authority’s attorney, suggested that the authority establish a time limit for public comment and set aside a specific time for such comment to take place. At the request of John Willmarth, a retired pharmacist from Meadville who spoke against fluoridation, Monday’s public comments had been postponed until after the CIIDH presentation so that the public could comment on what was actually said.
Saying that he believed that the action recommended by Watts may have already been taken, MAWA Project Manager Don Nold said he would investigate and report back to the board.
Nold also observed that adding fluoride to the city’s water supply would be a lengthy process requiring, among other things, approval from Pennsylvania’s Department of Environmental Protection.
“It would probably take a year to implement,” he said, also noting that a number of factors must be considered. For example, since MAWA provides bulk water to Vernon Township, “If we put fluoride in, Vernon Township has fluoride,” he said.
According to Groves, the press will be asked to inform the public in advance of MAWA’s next fluoride discussion.
Mary Spicer can be reached at 724-6370 or by email at email@example.com.