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Fluoride ordinance repeal denied
November 10, 2017

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A 1958 ordinance mandating the addition of fluoride in Rugby water is still on the books.

By a 5-2 vote, the Rugby City Council rejected the second reading of Ordinance No. 408 Monday evening. Ordinance No. 408, if passed, would have repealed Ordinance No. 84. When passed in November 1958, Ordinance No. 84 mandated the treatment of Rugby water with fluoride.

The rejection of the second reading followed a vote on whether or not to table it a third time.

Prior to the vote, the council spoke with Kimberli Yineman, the N.D. Department of Health's oral health program director, and Kip Duchon, a national fluoridation engineer with the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention.

Rugby Mayor Arland Geiszler said the repeal vote didn't address whether or not fluoride would still be added during the treatment process. City Attorney Bill Hartl said the vote should reflect it, adding the ordinance up for repeal says the city "shall/must" add fluoride.

"You've had [Dr. Paul] Niemi and others here," Hartl said, "you've kicked the can around, you've debated."

Hartl said in a letter included in council packets that if members vote "yes" on the repeal ordinance, it should also be a yes vote on removing fluoride from the treatment process. A "no" vote would keep the ordinance in place and fluoride would still be added to city water.

"I do not think the council should 'straddle the fence' and repeal the flouride [sic] ordinance, but then say "but we will still put flouride in the water because we don't think doing so is prohibited...' Either repeal the flouride ordinance and cease putting flouride in the water, or leave the ordinance in place or continue to put flouride in the water," Hartl said in the letter.

Newly-appointed Ward 2 Councilman Dave Bednarz said it was "very clear" the city needs to add fluoride to the water.

Ward 1 Councilman Neil Lotvedt and Ward 4 Councilwoman Sue Steinke echoed concerns that there still wasn't enough information to make a decision on whether to eliminate fluoride from the treatment process, including what steps would need to be taken at the treatment plant for changing where fluoride is added or how to go about removal.

Steinke said in minutes the council approved from October there was white film collecting on electronics in the plant.

"Something's wrong," Steinke said.

Hartl said that could be determined by an engineer, however the ordinance was the main issue.

The motion to table the second reading was brought to a vote. It was rejected 5-2, with Lotvedt and Steinke being the sole "yes" votes.

The second reading of Ordinance No. 408 was brought to a vote. Steinke and Lotvedt voted to approve the second reading, while Bednarz, Ward 4 Councilman Chuck Longie, Ward 2 Councilman Gary Kraft and Ward 1 Councilman Bruce Allen Rheault all voted "no."

Fluoride occurs naturally at a rate of 0.3 ppm in water the city uses for drinking. More fluoride is added during the treatment process to get within the health department-suggested rate of 0.7 ppm.

The addition of fluoride had become a point of contention as of late. In a poll conducted by the city as to whether or not it should remove fluoride from the treatment process, out of 312 responding, 168 or 53.8 percent said "yes" and 144 or 46.1 percent said "no." In written or called-in comments, five people said "yes" and 11 said "no."

In a letter, Pierce County State's Attorney and Rugby resident Galen Mack said the city should not revise the fluoride ordinance, that he was "disappointed to see this issue turn into a popularity contest" and a poll should not be allowed to make decisions left to the council, and a young couple he talked with that showed interest in moving to Rugby was given pause that the possibility of the council removing fluoride from the water treatment process or changing the ordinance requiring it be added was gaining traction in the community.

The council received an anonymous letter from a Pierce County resident alleging the fluoride added to the city water is a "poison", and that it "...suppresses the thyroid and is a major cause of low thyroids (and illness) in the U.S."

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