Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Tarpon Springs to discuss water fluoridation at Tuesday's meeting

TARPON SPRINGS — Now that this city is finally ready to build its own water treatment plant, officials must decide a controversial question: Should Tarpon add fluoride to its tap water?

The City Commission will discuss the question Tuesday night, and officials expect a crowd of people to come to City Hall to express their opinions. Several dentists will speak on behalf of fluoridation, and there will also be people opposed to it.

"It's a contentious issue," City Manager Mark LeCouris recently told commissioners. "The main question you'll wrestle with is: Is it the role of the government to do that or not?"

And so Tarpon Springs becomes the latest local government to grapple with the fluoride issue.

Pinellas County, which currently supplies most of Tarpon Springs' drinking water, decided last year to stop adding fluoride to its water, triggering polarized reactions both locally and nationally.

Most health organizations support fluoridation for dental health, but opponents call it poison and government-forced medication.

More recently, Dunedin, Pinellas Park and Plant City have gone in the opposite direction, deciding to keep fluoride in their public water supply.

Tarpon Springs water

Tarpon Springs has long planned to build its own water plant so it can save money and become water-independent. It draws 20 percent of its tap water from city-owned well fields, but it has to buy the remaining 80 percent from Pinellas County, which is more expensive.

In 2006, Tarpon residents voted in a referendum to build a reverse osmosis water treatment plant. It will produce drinking water by pushing brackish, or salty, water through special filtering membranes. The brackish water will be pumped from deep wells north of the Anclote River.

The $45 million plant has been designed, but it hasn't been built yet. A legal challenge from Tarpon Springs resident Henry Ross put the project on hold. His case was recently dismissed by an appeals court, so the city is getting ready to start construction.

The plant wasn't designed for adding fluoride to the water, because some past city commissioners were opposed to that, LeCouris said. They made that decision in 2008. At the time, barely anyone noticed.

"It wasn't really a big discussion," recalled LeCouris, who was Tarpon's police chief at the time. "I don't remember much fanfare."

Peter Dalacos was one of the commissioners opposed to fluoridation.

"We made sure we didn't put stuff in the water that absolutely, positively didn't need to be in there," said Dalacos, who has since left office due to term limits. "Why spend $45 million on a plant to make this brackish water as pure as possible, then turn around and start putting pollutants in it?"

However, LeCouris said it would be relatively easy and inexpensive to adjust the water plant's design to allow for fluoridation.

That's what Commissioner Jeff Larsen wants to do. Elected in 2010, he was surprised to learn that Tarpon isn't planning to add fluoride to its tap water. He was the one who called for Tuesday's discussion.

"I think fluoridation is an important issue," Larsen said. "I'm very much moved by the fact that the Centers for Disease Control and the American Dental Association are in favor of it. I think we should make our decisions based on science."

Ongoing debate

No one has a good handle on how the five commissioners will vote Tuesday night.

"I really haven't made up my mind as to whether we need fluoridation or not," said Mayor David Archie.

The city has set up a web page with information about the debate. Residents can go to the city's website at and click on "fluoridation."

At Tuesday's meeting, commissioners expect to hear plenty of arguments for and against.

Dentists vouch for fluoride as a safe and effective tool to prevent cavities and tooth decay. Opponents call it government-enforced mass medicating, an intrusion that residents are powerless to resist.

Nearly three-quarters of Americans using public utilities drink from fluoridated water supplies.

St. Petersburg, Dunedin, Pinellas Park, Gulfport and Belleair continue to fluoridate their tap water. So do Tampa and Hillsborough County, although Pasco County doesn't. Pinellas County stopped the practice at the end of last year, affecting 700,000 residents.

Mike Brassfield can be reached at or (727) 445-4151. Send letters to the editor at

.if you go

Tarpon Springs fluoride discussion

What: City Commission will consider fluoridating Tarpon's tap water

When: 6:30 p.m. Tuesday

Where: City Hall, 324 E Pine St.


Email your opinion: (emails will be forwarded to all commissioners)

Tarpon Springs to discuss water fluoridation at Tuesday's meeting 04/14/12 [Last modified: Saturday, April 14, 2012 2:48pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Tampa girl, 4, dies of gunshot reaching for candy


    TAMPA — One day last week, 4-year-old Yanelly Zoller reached into her grandmother's purse looking for candy, her father says.

    Nelly Zoller snuggles with her grandfather's dog, Venus. Her father says she went looking for candy in her grandmother's purse and found a gun instead. [Facebook]
  2. Mikhail Sergachev begins real Lightning audition vs. Carolina Hurricanes

    Lightning Strikes

    RALEIGH, N.C. — The spotlight will remain on Mikhail Sergachev throughout the Lightning preseason.

    Tampa Bay Lightning defenseman Mikhail Sergachev (98) on the ice during hockey training camp in preparation for the 2017-2018 season in Brandon Friday morning (09/15/17). DIRK SHADD   |   Times  

  3. Tampa police search for man in connection to Sunday killing (w/ video)


    TAMPA — Police released surveillance video of a man they believe might have information about a Sunday morning fatal shooting.

  4. Pinellas announces Hurricane Irma make-up day


    The Pinellas County school district has announced how it will make up one of the seven school days missed by Hurricane Irma.

    Residents make their way into Joseph L. Carwise Middle School to shelter ahead of Hurricane Irma Sunday, Sept. 10, 2017 in Palm Harbor. The storm is forecasted to affect the Tampa Bay area overnight with winds subsiding Monday.
  5. Hooper: Hillsborough marks 100th anniversary of historic photo collection


    Everyone ends up with a favorite.

    Or two or three or 10.

    Rest assured, no one who adores Tampa Bay, appreciates art or cherishes history can explore the Burgert Brothers Photographic Collection without storing at least one snapshot in the mental scrapbook.

    Part of the Burgert Brothers collection now featured through the Hillsborough Public Library shows a beer garden on Central Avenue in Tampa from July 1942. [Burgert Brothers collection]