Rissie Casagranda, a city council member up for re-election October 2, is again trying to take a stand against fluoridation and other potential additives to our city water supply. She’s eager to pass an ordinance on the issue in case she’s not re-elected, as she is probably the most outspoken opponent of public water fluoridation on the council. But, it seems her time for that may have run out. Her ordinance, 2012-009, establishing criteria for substances added to public drinking water for purposes unrelated to potability, was postponed by the council Monday night until September 24th. It was postponed to allow the city administration to look over the various implications of the ordinance, rather than just its legality, and make a recommendation. The delay also was to allow the council to have a work session on the issue, which is scheduled for 5:30 p.m. on the same evening.
Normally, postponements come after ordinances are introduced, often after public hearings are held, which are part of the process of their being enacted. But this time, despite Casagranda’s pleas not to do so, the council cut it off at an earlier stage, saying neither they, nor the administration, had had enough time to study the proposed changes. City Manager Jim Hunt said he received the ordinance on Thursday afternoon prior to Monday night’s meeting.
The ordinance proposes more than two pages of additions to the Seward City Code, with sections related to a manufacturer’s of additives’ accountability, transparency/disclosure, compliance with Alaska Law, conformance with industry standards, violations and severability.
Casagranda says that the 50 producers of fluoride for public water systems, who have been contacted with a questionnaire, had refused to respond. The questionnaire asked them to name exactly what substances the manufacturers use in their product, and to guarantee that that these chemicals are safe for everyone in the population, including babies and young children. They also want the manufacturers to provide all of the studies done on their chemicals, and currently underway, in order to prove that they are safe. The American Medical Association itself now says that fluoride is unsafe for infants, Casagranda said.
As it happened, Dr. John French, an environmental toxicologist who was called by former Seward City Managers Phillip Oates to testify about the fluoridation debate when last it arose in Seward years ago, was in the council audience to speak about the Prince William Sound Regional Citizens Advisory Council, which meets here later this month.
“I’m very, very disappointed to see this ordinance come forward, and I’m certain that this public hearing will be very, very contentious,” French warned. “This ordinance appears to be a lot of half-truths hidden behind a lot of smoke and mirrors.” He reiterated an argument he had made at former council debates. “Things are never completely safe. Nothing is not toxic at some level. What is not poison is but a matter of degree,” he said.
Maya Moriarty, local dentist Mike Moriarty’s wife and dental employee who helped spearhead the Seward Wellness for All’s committee that proposed city fluoridation a few years ago, also spoke up.
For the council to consider the ordinance at this time was putting the cart before the horse, she said. “Council hasn’t voted on water fluoridation because you have not yet heard about the costs,” she said. “Why vote on something so technical when you haven’t voted yet on whether you would implement it?”
When last the council considered fluoridating the city water, they agreed to postpone action until they could learn more about its cost and applicability to the Seward water distribution system, which was in the process of being rebuilt, with a new, large water tank replacing aging smaller ones. To date they have not heard back from the construction engineers as the tank has yet to be built.
Among the claims Casagranda’s ordinance makes to argue for the need for the ordinance: The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency no longer has oversight responsibilities for direct water additives, there are no federal safety standards, and the voluntary industry self-regulation standard, known as NSI/NSF Standard 6, adopted by Alaska, is administrated by a non-governmental body with no direct responsibility to health agencies or consumers, the ordinance states. It also claims that public policy discussions are underway about the potential for adding lithium to the public water to alter human mood imbalances and reduce suicides, and statin drugs to reduce cholesterol.
Matt Hershock, a citizen, business owner who spoke in favor of the ordinance put it this way: “Why would someone put something in the water without knowing the ingredients? It just blows my mind!”