BETHEL — Selectmen on Monday unanimously voted to call a special town meeting for Sept. 8 to vote on whether to continue adding fluoride to the town drinking water.

Fluoride is touted as a deterrent to tooth decay. Bethel has been adding it to the water since a town vote in 1970.

But at Monday’s selectmen meeting, Sarah Lane made a case against the practice, saying there are health risks. She asked for the town vote.

In addition, Bethel Water District trustee Chairman Brent Angevine said he believes the town should have a discussion about the issue, and a vote would force that.

“Forty-four years is a long time,” he said.

But Angevine said the Water District is not taking a position on whether fluoride should be in the water.

“We do whatever the town wishes to be done,” he said.

Angevine said opinions among Maine water districts on the value of fluoride is “all over the place.” He said there is “so much science, both positive and negative, we didn’t want to be a polarizing party to this discussion.”

Bethel Water District Superintendent Lucien Roberge, when asked his opinion, stressed he was not speaking for the district, but said he personally does not want fluoride. He said people already get it from other sources, such as toothpaste and in some brands of bottled water and other drinks prepared with municipal drinking supplies.

Unlike 40 or 50 years ago, he said, “There’s plenty of fluoride out there.”

The annual cost to the Bethel Water District for fluoride is $2,600.

Lane said fluoride use is geared toward children, and parents can get fluoride prescriptions or treatments if they wish, some at little or no cost.

But she expressed concern about research showing fluoride exposure can lead to brain damage.

“Since 1970, the world view of fluoride has changed a lot,” she said.

Lane also said the total amount of fluoride a person gets through water depends on individual usage. For instance, she said, infants who get baby formula mixed with municipal water may have overall higher amounts of fluoride because of the volume they consume.

Jafrae Alford, who operates a child care center in Bethel, said many parents bring their own water for their infants.

Lane, who does not live in Bethel, said people who have children attending public school in Bethel and drinking the water have no say in the matter.

She was told by selectmen that she could attend the town meeting and ask to be recognized by voters to make a presentation.

A public hearing will precede the meeting, with details yet to be worked out.

Lane said residents will have time to research the issue before Sept. 8.

In other business at Monday’s meeting, interim Town Manager Steve Eldridge said the Maine Department of Environmental Protection has OK’d a plan to build a basketball court at Davis Park without obtaining a formal permit or doing a wetlands delineation.

Selectmen also voted 3-1 to form a committee to oversee plans for a veterans memorial park on town land on Main Street, next to the Civil War monument. Pat Carter opposed the move, calling it unnecessary. An American Legion committee has been overseeing planning and fundraising to date for a site originally planned for the Fire Station. Some of those people could be included on the town’s committee.

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