OLIVER SPRINGS — The Oliver Springs Water Board has repeatedly heard the pros and cons of dropping fluoride from the town’s water supply, but Thursday’s vote may at last be the final decision.
When the current supply is exhausted, that’ll be it. Fluoride — described alternatively as a tooth decay preventive and a toxic hazard — will no longer go into the system, board members decided in a split vote.
Voting to end the practice were Maurice Walker, Don Shillings and Terry Craze. Board member Omer Cox voted against the motion, while Terry Holland passed on voting.
The decision culminates more than two years of occasionally heated debates on the controversial issue that has included some missteps in procedures as well as fervent pleas from supporters and opponents.
Three dentists on Thursday urged the board to keep fluoride in the water supply, while a show of hands from the audience indicated most attendees favored stopping the practice.
“This is America, and we should have the right to decide what to put in our bodies,” said resident Tim Crisp, who first expressed concerns about fluoride during a May 2012 meeting.
“There’s no evidence that putting fluoride in the water has done harm to populations across the country,” Dr. Steve Smith, a local dentist,
Walker said other cities have stopped putting fluoride in the water with only a negligible increase in decay.
“It’s a poison, and it should be up to the individual whether they want to introduce it in their children’s bodies or their body,” Walker said.
Dr. Susan Barnes, also a local dentist, urged the board to keep putting fluoride in the water so local children can have the opportunity “to become grandparents with all of their teeth intact.”
City Recorder Joe Van Hook said it would save some $5,000 to $8,000 a year to stop adding fluoride, but Oak Ridge dentist Dr. Jim Horton said that savings would be minimal.
The Water Board has voted twice before to stop putting fluoride in the water, but both decisions had to be walked back because of procedural miscues. Board members later voted to put the matter to a popular vote, only to learn that state guidelines don’t allow such referendums.