YORKTOWN, N.Y. – An invitation by Councilman Ed Lachterman to respond to a poll he posted on Yorktown Families’ Facebook page about the proposed fluoridation of the municipality’s water elicited one he probably wasn’t expecting at the Town Board’s regular meeting held last week at the John C. Hart Memorial Library.
First up during courtesy of the floor on Tuesday, April 2, was Mark Lieberman, who was critical of Lachterman’s actions.
“It is my understanding that the Town Board has discussed this several times, voted on it several times, got approval of a grant. It’s in the budget, I believe, this year; you have been spending the money already,” Lieberman said. “I believe Facebook’s not the place to make that decision and I think if there are issues with regard to putting fluoride in the water, the Town Board should be talking about this and deciding whether or not you’ve already wasted money or you’re going ahead with the project.”
To which Lachterman had a response of his own. The councilman, one of two Republicans on the board who is seeking re-election in November, said he had seen “a lot of people questioning” the fluoridation process on the Facebook page and upon answering a question, noticed it received “a tremendous” number of pings, “for and against.”
He said he thought “maybe we need to listen to the people of the town.”
Posting the poll, he said, was something he felt “would be beneficial, and I figured at our next work session, I’ll ask to be put on [the agenda] and I’ll share the results of that.” Someone, he said, even suggested putting the question of fluoridation up for a townwide vote.
“We may have spent a little money,” he said. “We definitely have a grant on it…but if it’s the wrong decision, it’s not what the town wants, then it’s not what the town wants.”
The issue of fluoridating the town’s drinking water has been debated as far back as 2013, when the fluoride feed system at the Catskill facility of the Northern Westchester Joint Water Works went off line. That facility serves both residents on the west side of Yorktown and those in Cortlandt. The balance of Yorktown’s drinking water, about 33 percent, is delivered by the Amawalk Water Treatment plant, which ceased adding fluoride in October 2017 because the hydraulics of Yorktown’s distribution system was affecting the level of fluoride being delivered.
In December, the board authorized a transfer of $209,000 from the Water District’s fund balance to pay Arcadis of New York for the design of a new fluoridation system. Once the system is enabled, fluoride is expected to begin flowing again at both plants. The town will be reimbursed for the expenditure through a state grant of $901,000 the town received earlier last year to cover the full cost of the system. The town was given up to 18 months to complete the project.
Councilman Vishnu Patel defended fluoridation, citing its support by the state’s commissioner of health.
“I think the commissioner of health knows more about health issues and toxicity of chemicals” than any member of the board, he said.
“Vishnu, I just think there’s a lot of information out there,” Lachterman said. “You’re a scientist; you know that there are scientists who have conflicting opinions, and I think it is imperative that we not only do all the research—which we’ve done and found it’s on both sides of the coin—but our ultimate responsibility is to the people of Yorktown and we should listen to them.”
Town Supervisor llan Gilbert, a Democrat who seeking his second term in November, noted that the board had already expended some funds on the project.
“I think unless…something has changed overwhelmingly that would make us change our minds, I think we’ve already set a course,” he said, adding, “but I am open-minded.”
“I know we have,” Lachterman said. “But do we go all the way down the rabbit hole if at the bottom of the rabbit hole there are spikes waiting?”
Councilwoman Alice Roker said she agreed with Lachterman and Gilbert. She also raised the matter of discussions surrounding the issue of fluoridation that were held by the board in 2013, “But we haven’t talked about the issue for six years in public.”
“You know what, Ed? I don’t have a problem talking about it,” Roker said. “I would suspect maybe we should be holding a public hearing on fluoride.”
Gilbert noted the progress the town has made to get to the point it’s at now.
“There was debate back in 2013; there’s debate now,” he said. “I don’t know whether you can convince me that there’s something overwhelming that has changed the nature of what we’ve passed and we’ve already voted and gone forward with.”
“A lot changes in six years, not only with people but with the information,” Lachterman said. “We discussed the grant versus the issue.”
He said he hadn’t intended to “open Pandora’s box” by posting the poll, but to “have that conversation.”
“I was going to bring it to the board,” he said.
As of 1 p.m. Thursday, April 4, residents posting on the Yorktown Families Facebook page in response to Lachterman’s poll favored fluoridation by a vote of 144 to 100, with another six indicating they had no opinion “either way.”