The Walden Village Board passed a resolution to remove fluoride from the public water supply during its meeting on Oct. 17, and the preliminary decision marks a major development in the months-long debate over whether or not to remove the compound from residents’ drinking water. The council approved the resolution by a 4-2 vote, with Walden Mayor Susan Rumbold and Village Trustees John Ramos, Faith Moore and Lynn Thompson voting for the measure, with Deputy Mayor Sean Hoffman and Village Trustee Brenda Adams opposing the resolution.
The village has been making its way through the state’s involved process of eliminating fluoride from a municipality’s water system, and Walden is now required to provide the state and the Orange County Health Department with 90 days notice of the village’s intent to discontinue water fluoridation. The village will also have to offer up an alternative health plan that will provide residents with additional ways to procure fluoride, and a local law will have to be passed before the fluoridation can be ended. “We’ll have a public hearing on it, so the public can make their comments about going forward with it,” Rumbold said.
As required under state law, the village reached out to numerous health professionals to hear their expertise on the issue. The resolution notes that Walden consulted a group of nine doctors and medical experts during the course of their research, in addition to the Orange County Department of Health and the International Academy of Oral Medicine and Toxicology (IAOMT).
“In reaching said preliminary determination the Board has further considered the existence of alternatives to fluoridation that are widely known and commonly accepted and that include such normal and routine actions such as the maintenance of good oral hygiene through regular brushing and flossing, maintenance of a balanced nutritional diet as well as topical applications of fluoride toothpaste, fluoride dental treatments and fluoride mouth washes,” the resolution explains.
During the course of the public debate over fluoridation, the board heard passionate testimony on both sides of the matter, and Rumbold made her decision to vote for the resolution based on what she thought was best for the public. “I don’t think it should be the business of the municipality to put something in the water that forces everyone who pays for it to ingest the same thing,” the mayor said. “I think it’s a personal choice, and I don’t think the municipality should be doing it.” The official also weighed the public input that came in during the discussions.
“Most of the people in the public who voiced their opinion did not want it in the water system, and the people that did speak to me about it live here,” Rumbold said. “My constituents, people who live in the Village of Walden, voiced their opinion very strongly that they didn’t want it in the water.”
For her part, Trustee Adams noted she wasn’t confident she had a sufficient amount of evidence that demonstrated that fluoridation should be discontinued. “I didn’t think I had enough good information to make the decision to remove it,” she said. “I felt that all my research that I did to take out or to leave it in was sort of equal, and I just felt I didn’t have enough information.” Adams wanted to see more conclusive data on the potential harms of fluoride before voting to eliminate it from the Walden water supply. “I would have preferred some actual studies that proved the assumptions that are being taken,” she explained. “Some of the information said that fluoride definitely caused certain things, but their studies also used fluoride far in excess of what we use.
The other wording was ‘indications’ of what fluoride will cause, and I just felt that it was somewhat vague wording. I would have liked to have seen a study that was actually programmed to determine this. Maybe follow people for a time frame that had used fluoride. Maybe even taken a group of people that grew up here in the village in the 50’s or 60’s that had an opportunity to have fluoride and to actually test and see what the outcome is at this point in life.”
The board received expert testimony that argued for and against water fluoridation, and Orange County Department of Health Commissioner Dr. Eli Avila argued in person that the practice should continue, all of which added up to a tough call for the board.
“I drink the water, I’ve been drinking it since I was a kid, and I have excellent teeth,” Adams said. “I’m not going to say that it is doesn’t have bad effects. I feel like I’m still on the fence, because everything I read that was bad, there was something good. The Department of Health is emphasizing keeping it, and the state has made it a little more difficult to remove it, and I put weight on them. They had facts on the benefits of fluoridation, and we all know that if your oral health is good, the chances are the rest of your health has a chance.”
During last Tuesday’s meeting, the board also unanimously passed Local Law No. 9 of 2017, legislation which will amend the village zoning code to reduce the percentage of required affordable units in townhouse developments from 20 percent to 10 percent. “At least 10 percent of the townhouse units shall be affordable,” the law states. “Such units shall be disbursed throughout the townhouse project and shall be indistinguishable from the market rate units in terms of their exterior appearance.”
The change is intended to make Walden more competitive with other local real estate markets. “The 10 percent is in line with what everybody else does,” Rumbold said. When the townhouse law was originally crafted, the 20 percent figure was deemed reasonable, but the council believes that 10 percent is a better fit with current market conditions. “That was the thinking of the board back then, and we were out of line with everybody else, which was pointed out to us,” Rumbold said. “With these kinds of projects, you have to attract people that are willing to develop them, and you’re in competition with other municipalities who are doing the same kinds of projects. So it makes sense to be in line with what everyone else does.”
By Ted Remsnyder