Fluoride is in: Sarnia activist vow to try again

Sarnia Mayor Mike Bradley

Sarnia Mayor Mike Bradley

Officials with the Lambton Area Water Supply System are getting ready to replace an aging fluoridation system even as anti-fluoride activist are vowing the fight to rid drinking water of the chemical is not over yet.

LAWSS raised the controversial issue with the six municipalities which form the group last month. It had plans to replace an aging fluoridation unit but asked councils if they wanted to continue the practice. About three years ago, there was an attempt to remove fluoride from the water which failed and LAWSS members thought it would be best to revisit the matter before spending $300,000 to $400,000.

Four of the six municipalities would have to agree to remove fluoride before it would happen. Recently, Point Edward became the third municipality to vote to keep the chemical in the water, along with Lambton Shores and Warwick. St. Clair Township has asked for its removal. Plympton-Wyoming held a vote but it was tied, which according to the clerk has the effect of asking for fluoride to be removed. A reconsideration of the issue is expected. Sarnia council plans to vote on the issue June 24.

But any further votes will not make a difference, since four votes would be needed to take fluoride out.

LAWSS General Manager Susan McFarlane says the new fluoridation system will be installed. She’s in the process of finding a contractor to do the work.

Sarnia Mayor Mike Bradley says Sarnia will continue with its vote, even though it won’t have an effect on the decision. And he says the issue has been confusing from the beginning. “The question should have been framed properly; there should have been a direct question and a package of information.

“You’d think in this day and age there would be a clearer process here.”

After the vote in Sarnia is taken, Bradley will ask council to consider holding a plebiscite on the issue during the next municipal election.

“Even though the plebiscite wouldn’t have an impact immediately, at least it would give council direction if it comes up again,” says Bradley. “And it will.”

It appears Bradley is right. Zak Nichols was one of about 26 speakers at a public meeting the city held on the topic. He’s interested to see the outcome of the Sarnia vote, saying he believes the city will ask for fluoride to be removed.

If that is the case, Nichols says residents in Lambton Shores plan to approach their council to reconsider the issue. “Lambton Shores didn’t have its full council there,” says Nichols. “One of the group did contact a member of Lambton Shores Council, Deputy Mayor Elizabeth Davis Dagg, who wasn’t there and has spoken about removing fluoride from water… we think she missed that vote and perhaps that might make the difference. We still have to find one more municipality to come on board.”

Davis Dagg says the group may not be able to get Lambton Shores to reconsider since only one person voted to take fluoride from the water. But Davis Dagg – who is the chair of LAWSS – says citizens can call for a plebiscite in their municipalities by gathering the names of up to 10 percent of the population on a petition.

“I think it is achievable,” she say adding there are some hurdles the municipalities would have to clear including a succinct ballot question. “It could be quite a complicated process…but it would be achievable.”

– Heather Wright