The Board of Directors for the Orange Water and Sewer Authority voted to continue the policy of adding fluoride to the drinking water.

The OWASA board held a meeting with public comments March 9, in order to help make a decision: whether to add fluoride, or to review the practice of fluoridating the water.

“Undertaking such a review would not change the widely accepted and scientifically supported view that community water fluoridation is safe and effective,” said Alex White, Assistant Professor at the UNC School of Dentistry. “Spending taxpayer resources on a new review may not be advisable, given the high likelihood that the recommendation would not change.”

White and others at the meeting said the health benefits of fluoride should be enough evidence to keep it.

But after the water treatment plant shut down in February because of an accidental release of too much fluoride, OWASA hasn’t added it since.

Sharon Reese is a resident of Chapel Hill. She said she hasn’t been in the area long, and has lived in five states without fluoride in the water, and she said she prefers it that way.

“I think it is mass-medicating a whole group of people,” she said. “And we all drink different amounts of water—I by choice drink 32 ounces of water a day. I’m not very big. That means I’m getting a whole lot of fluoride that I don’t think I need. And people who don’t drink or hardly drink any water at all are getting almost no fluoride.”

The recommended amount of fluoride for water is 0.7 parts per million. However, Chapel Hill resident Parker Emmerson said even that is too much.

“It is a very strange situation we have ourselves in,” he said. “Where a quasi-governmental agency controlled by an unelected board is determining whether or not to dose the population with a known neurotoxin that is a level eight corrosive material. So, people will naturally resist.”

But Rebecca King is the retired North Carolina State Dental Director. She said the recommended level of fluoride in water is good for you and protects everyone from tooth decay.

She said those who say otherwise can be split into two groups: one is people who have received bad information.

“The second group of fluoridation opponents include those who claim to use science and interpret literature,” she said. “They take credible research and misrepresent the facts, cite poorly done studies, provide research that’s not relevant to fluoridation in the United States, and make statements that are simply inaccurate and misleading.”

Board member Terri Buckner said she’s content with the level of fluoride and thinks OWASA should continue supplying it, but the board should continue to research new studies and findings from both sides of the argument.

“As somebody who grew up without fluoride and continues to pay the price, my preference is to not do any further study, to stick with our current practice at the lower level of use that we are currently using it at, and continue with our request to staff to when anything about the science changes,” Buckner said.

The board heard over 40 public comments before making the decision, according to a news release.

Staff will return to the next meeting with recommended improvements to the fluoride feed system and will propose a date for resuming fluoridation.

The meeting will take place March 23, at 7:00 PM in the Council Chamber in the Chapel Hill Town Hall.