Question of fluoride in drinking water to be part of plebiscite during October election

CALGARY — It’s not the first time but the future of fluoride will be up to Calgarians to decide once again.

City council has voted to include the issue of whether fluoride should by in the drinking water as a plebiscite question in the coming October municipal election.

The chemical was removed from Calgary’s drinking water supply in 2011, and the latest discussion comes after a city committee accepted a new report debating community water fluoridation.

Mayor Naheed Nenshi said he is in favour of fluoride as a public health intervention.

“I know the World Health Organization has called it one of the most important health interventions of the 20th century,” he said. “But ultimately, I also think that because our history in Calgary has been letting people vote, that letting people vote was the right thing to do on this as well.”

Calgarians previously voted ‘no’ to fluoride in plebiscites in 1957, 1961 and 1971. Then in 1989 the vote was 53 per cent ‘yes’, and in 1999 Calgarians voted 55 per cent yes.

An earlier report from the city’s water services department said fluoridation would cost around $10.1 million in initial capital expenses and about $1 million in annual operating and maintenance costs. It’s also estimated between $2 million and $4 million would be needed for maintenance at some point in the project’s 20-year lifecycle. 

Fluoridation would cost an estimated total of around $30.1 million over the course of two decades. The city would be able to absorb those costs without raising water rates, officials say.

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