ARUNDEL, Maine — Arundel will not be one of the towns supporting a question on the November ballot asking voters whether they support removing fluoride from the Kennebunk, Kennebunkport and Wells Water District water supply.
The KKWWD provides water to areas in Kennebunk, Kennebunkport, Wells, Ogunquit, Saco, Biddeford and Arundel. Norm Labbe, superintendent of the Water District, recently attended a meeting of the Arundel Board of Selectmen to request the board reconsider the addition of fluoride to the water supply.
The KKWWD would like to see the issue on the ballot in November, allowing voters to choose whether they want to continue adding fluoride to the water supply.
In 2002, voters unanimously approved the addition of fluoride to the water supply at KKWWD, but Labbe says he has several customers asking for the chemical to be removed. Labbe told the board it has been 12 years since the district started adding fluoride, and it is time to reexamine whether it is a good thing to be adding to town water.
“We are adding a chemical that reduces cavities. If it helps with teeth, what else is it doing? It has nothing to do with water quality. It’s a chemical. Everything has its good and bad,” Labbe said.
Labbe added he is also concerned about the lack of control over the ingestion of fluoride, as it is not a measured dose like a vaccine but is entirely dependent on how much water a person drinks.
“Fluoride is the most hazardous chemical that we handle,” he said. “It should be an individual decision.”
Dr. James Trentalange, who has a dental practice located in Arundel, did not agree.
Trentalange told the board the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention continues to research fluoride. Along with the Surgeon General, the CDC is still promoting fluoride. According to Trentalange, the CDC does a complete analysis of fluoride on an ongoing basis. They did a thorough examination of fluoride in 2008, and they will do it again in 2016, he said.
The local dentist told the board fluoride is at an optimal level in the United States, and it is in the water to help us. Trentalange said removing the fluoride would hurt people who are below poverty level and the elderly.
“It gives me solace to know that fluoride is in the water. Why does this need to be on the ballot right away?” he asked.
Dr. Joseph Kenneally, a Kennebunkport resident and a practicing dentist in Biddeford, described his biggest and proudest moment in his career as being the start of the fluoride campaign in Biddeford and Saco.
“I have seen so many improvements in teeth with fluoride, especially in poor communities. I see no reason to put this on the ballot,” he said.
It costs the KKWWD approximately $25,000 a year to put fluoride in the water but the district says that is not the reason for wanting to eliminate fluoride from the water supply.
“It’s been a dozen years that we have been feeding fluoride. We’ve learned a lot since 2002 ,and we want the public to rethink it,” Labbe said.
Labbe said the District wants this on the ballot so people can say ‘yes, we want it’ or ‘no, we don’t.’
For Labbe and the KKWWD wanting it on the ballot and getting it on the ballot are two different things. Four out of the seven towns, through the Board of Selectmen, must agree to place it on the ballot. If four of the Boards agree to place the fluoride issue on the ballot, then the question will be placed on the November ballots of all seven towns. If the district cannot gain the support of at least four towns, the issue will not go to the voters.
The district admitted Arundel is small in the use factor, because the majority of residents rely on well water; but with regard to the vote, Arundel has just as much weight as other towns. Selectmen Velma Jones Hayes said she agreed with the dentists who spoke to the board and does not see the need for the question on the ballot.
“We don’t use water as much as other towns,” she said.
Resident and Town Clerk Simone Boissonneault also let the board know there are no other questions going on the ballot this November. Putting the fluoride issue on our ballot would cost taxpayers in Arundel almost $2,000, which seems unnecessary for well water users, she said.
Selectmen Phil Labbe made a motion to put the fluoride question on the ballot indicating people should get to decide what they want to ingest.
The board voted down the question, 3-1, with board member Jason Nedeau absent.
The KKWWD will continue to present this issue to selectmen in the towns of Kennebunkport, Kennebunk, Wells, Biddeford, Saco and Ogunquit in the hope that four of those towns will agree to place the fluoride issue on the ballots this fall.