The Village of Cobleskill last Tuesday let stand an August decision to stop fluoridating its water and instead is looking into polling residents over the controversial question—or even putting it on the ballot.
The decision came despite almost immediate and intense lobbying by the medical community, dentists, and even the Schoharie County Department of Health after the village pulled the plug on fluoridation last August because of health concerns.
In a flood of Times-Journal letters to the editor and during the public comment session of village meetings, dentists and others have argued literature pointing of fluoridation have been misinterpreted by Water Superintendent Jeff Pangman.
“What Jeff has circulated is what I call quackery,” Marilyn Janicek, who’s been with Cornell Cooperative Extension for 30 years and who saw a similar debate when she first came to Schoharie County in 1978, said two weeks ago during the public comment portion of that village meeting.
“Online…so much of it is bogus,” Ms. Janicek continued. “You have to go to the source. It’s not enough to receive the reports like Jeff is circulating.”
Arguing that her office should have been notified before fluoridation was discontinued, in October County Public Health Director Kathleen Strack issued the village a notice of violation; the village formally contested that, arguing notification was not required.
Hoping to put the issue to rest, the village created a committee that included dentists to discuss it; last Tuesday that group hadn’t reached a consensus, either.
Trustee Mark Galasso wasn’t at the meeting, but Mayor Mike Sellers read a letter from him supporting the reintroduction of fluoride at the former rate of one parts per million, because of what he believes are health benefits.
Trustee Sandy Mackay, the village’s other representative on the committee, opposed going to back to fluoride, concerned about the potential of its long-term health effects.
Trustees Bill Gilmore and Carol McGuire both also said they were troubled by the possible consequences of adding fluoride back into village water—especially when alternatives like fluoridated toothpaste are available and other communities are also rethinking the use of fluoride in their public water supplies.
Clerk Sheila Gillespie said she’s researching whether something like the fluoride issue can be put on the ballot.
If not, one alternative might be to do to a more informal polling of village residents by including a survey in their next water bill.