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'I don't know how the township can choose to medicate us': Fluoride fight in West Manchester

Logan Hullinger
York Dispatch
Chairman Jim Bentzel, of Shiloh Water Authority, at a public hearing on Monday said the board will vote in late March will vote in late March on on defluoridation.

Dental experts, residents concerned about personal liberties and conspiracy theorists weighed in Monday at a public meeting on Shiloh Water Co.'s plan to stop adding fluoride to its water.

The meeting of the water company board members at the West Manchester Township Municipal Building came as Shiloh Water awaits approval from the state Department of Environmental Protection to remove fluoride from the water supplied to roughly half of the township.

West Manchester Township is served by one of the five water systems in York County that fluoridates its water, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. There are 58 water systems total in the county.

"It’s just really simple for me. It's considered a drug by the Federal Drug Administration," said Mary Baxter, of West Manchester Township. "We should have the choice of drugs we're taking. I don't know how the township can choose to medicate us." 

More:Shiloh Water Authority to reconsider fluoride removal plan

More:West Manchester water supplier aims to remove fluoride; township officials say they can't stop it

Others in support of the removal of fluoride made claims it leads to osteoporosis and attention deficit disorder, debunked theories that are often used to argue against the use of fluoride.

Shiloh Water is scheduled to hold a vote in the last week of March, said Jim Bentzel, the chairman of Shiloh's board, who added that some of the claims made during the meeting "weren't entirely true."

Local dentists were present and offered their expert opinions.

"There is a crisis with cavities, and dental decay is an epidemic," said York City-based dentist Joe Mountain. "Fluoride in water is one of the few tools we have. It it very safe. The history is there, the evidence is there."

Science is largely on the side of the dentists who spoke.

The CDC has called fluoridation of public water systems one of the most successful public health initiatives in the country's history. Fluoride has been shown to prevent cavities and have an overall positive effect on dental health. 

After hearing testimony from both sides, Bentzel declined to say whether the speakers swayed his decision that will come in late March.

The West Manchester Township board of supervisors has come out strongly against the water authority's effort to remove fluoride. 

But while the board appoints members to the authority's board, it has no jurisdiction over the water supplier's decision, under state law. The authority is considered a municipal agency, answerable solely to state regulators. 

If Shiloh's application is approved, fluoridation could be stopped within 30 days. 

— Logan Hullinger can be reached at lhullinger@yorkdispatch.com or via Twitter at @LoganHullYD.