Buda to vote on water fluoridation issue

In November, Buda residents will decide whether or not fluoride will be reintroduced into the city water supply.

In November, Buda residents will decide whether or not fluoride will be reintroduced into the city water supply.

After nearly two months of discussion, Buda City Council voted to allow its citizens to decide whether fluoride should be reintroduced in the city’s drinking water.

The council voted 5-2 to allow the question of fluoride on the ballot during November elections. Only Wiley Hopkins, Place 2, and Eileen Altmiller, Place 5, voted against the motion.

Buda residents have received fluoridated water since 2002 when the city became a Guadalupe-Blanco River Authority customer, Buda water specialist Brian Lillibridge said in December. In November 2015, the GBRA stopped fluoridating this supply source at the San Marcos treatment plant when 61 percent of voters in San Marcos voted against fluoridation.

In July 2015, Buda City Council passed a resolution to continue fluoridation of the city’s water supply, and Buda city staff teamed up with the Texas Fluoridation Program to design and install a fluoridation system at Bonita Vista pump station. But public outcry led Mayor Todd Ruge to request a public hearing be held during the Feb. 7 City Council meeting.

Before the public forum, Ruge announced the council had decided to allow Buda citizens to vote on the creation of a new city ordinance banning fluoride. Fluoridation will not resume in Buda until the voters show their support for it—if they do at all, Ruge said.

More than a dozen speakers, several of whom came from as far as Austin, came to speak against the reintroduction of fluoride into Buda’s water.

Sam Brannon, who led the campaign to remove the fluoride from San Marcos’ drinking water, said the council’s decision was “a really big step.”

“I just want to thank you. It’s absolutely the right decision,” he said. “I think it’s beautiful what you did.”

Michelle Davidson, a local childbirth educator, said for the city to reintroduce fluoride into drinking water would take away a parent’s choice on whether they should medicate their children.

“That’s exactly what was proposed, to violate and take away the responsibility of the the individuals, out of their hands, and medicate 10,000 people whether they liked it or not, or whether they needed it or not,” she said.

Not every speaker was in favor of ceasing fluoridation. Jonathon Kimes, representing the Texas Dental Association and the Capital Area Dental Association, said fluoride is safe, ethical and affordable. Those who say otherwise are “just cherry-picking a few talking points,” he said.

“The body of evidence on this topic has been amassed. It has been debated for the last 60 years. [The scientific community] still agrees that the best evidence that we have overall shows [fluoridation] is a safe practice and that it does prevent tooth decay,” he said

Henry Altmiller, a member of the chemistry department at St. Edward’s University in Austin, pointed out the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention called the fluoridation of community drinking water one of the 10 greatest health achievements of the 20th century.

“I am sorry you voted to have a referendum on this subject,” Altmiller said. “Whenever politics gets involved with science, it’s usually the science that suffers.”