The Gloucester City Council is expected to vote on a potential home rule petition Tuesday night that could end the addition of sodium fluoride to Gloucester’s water supply.

The home rule petition, sponsored by Councilor Jaime O’Hara, would have to be approved by state legislators through a “long, multi-month process” in order for it to go into effect, according to Councilor Ken Hecht. 

There will be no public opportunity for discussion concerning fluoridation at Tuesday night’s meeting, which starts at 7 in City Hall’s Kyrouz Auditorium.

The council will consider several other items on its agenda, including a vote on a loan authorization request of $1 million to replace the Concord Street Bridge.

Hecht said that while he supports not adding any additional fluoride to the water supply, he hopes to see a public hearing in the fall or spring that would address the effects of fluoridation.

“Since the last time there was a referendum, there has been a lot more additional information on fluoride and its health effects,” said Hecht. “We should give both parties time to bring additional information about the health effects of fluoridation to the public.”

Gloucester voted to keep fluoride in its water supply through a non-binding referendum in 2015.

Karen Spencer, a semi-retired analyst who is against fluoridation of the water supply, has put pressure on the council to revisit fluoridation since January 2018. She said the council has “steadfastly avoided” the issue since then.

“Once a community begins fluoridation, the city’s public health department and a popular vote does not have the authority to end fluoridation because of odd wording in the state law,” said Spencer. “The only way Gloucester can take control of fluoridation (after the referendum) is to get a home rule exemption.”

Spencer said the issue of fluoridation should be fully addressed after the city’s elections wrap up in November. She also supports holding public forums on the issue.

“I think what (the city council) needs to do is go for the home rule petition so they have the authority in 2020 to investigate new research (about fluoridation),” Spencer said.

 

IF YOU GO

What: City Council to vote on pursuing a home-rule petition calling for the addition of fluoride to city water to cease during its regular meeting.

When: Tuesday, Aug. 13, at 7 p.m.

Where: Kyrouz Auditorium, City Hall, 9 Dale Ave.

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