A newly-comprised Pinellas County Commission votes next week to resume adding fluoride to the Pinellas County public water supply. The system that serves 700,000 residents stopped adding fluoride more than a year ago after a 4-to-3 vote by the county commission.
The move cost two incumbents up for re-election their jobs, which are now held by pro-fluoride replacements. The three who thought fluoridation was good all along have not changed their minds.
"The science is crystal clear," said commissioner Ken Welch. "We've beat this thing to death."
"There's no doubt how I feel about this," commissioner Karen Seel echoed. "We need to put the fluoride back in the water."
And then there is commission chair John Morroni, who voted against fluoridation last year.
"I am prepared to go along and follow the wishes of the public," Morroni told his peers. "After serving eight years in the Florida legislature and dealing with so many issues, I have never been talked to about an issue as much as this fluoride issue."
With his change of heart, next week's vote is expected to be 6 to 1 to resume fluoridation.
The single opposing vote will come from commissioner Norman Roche, who started the ferocious fluoride fight. Ironically, Roche has never said he opposes the additive. He has consistently argued for a county policy governing any additive.
"Our citizens, we owe it to them to have the absolute unquestionable standards for anything that goes into the public drinking water supply," Roche repeated at Tuesday's county commission meeting. He also wants a referendum.
"I think the best way to learn what our citizens think about fluoride or if they want it is to ask them -- ask them the question directly," Roche pleaded.
None of the other six commissioners continued that discussion, but they did hand Roche a smackdown. By tenure, Roche was in line to become vice chairman next year and therefore chairman of the County Commission in 2014. Instead, the position of vice chair went to commissioner Karen Seel.
"It's an election by us," commissioner Susan Latvala told Roche.
Mechanically, fluoridation of Pinellas water could resume in a matter of days. However, there will probably be a brief delay while public notice is given.
County officials suspect many parents started giving their children fluoride supplements the past year. They will need to know when to stop that practice, because it is possible to ingest too much fluoride.
FOX 13 / WTVT-TV
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