A group of individuals who are against putting fluoride into the Pine Island drinking water met at Fisher's of Men Lutheran Church Friday night to discuss the progress that Citizens for Safe Water, a nonprofit organization, has made since its inception on June 20.
Ron Parker, president of the organization, filled in the dozen or so individuals who attended the meeting that they have started a public education campaign, which has included letters to the editor and public notices published in the Eagle. He said they have also been in touch with lawyers and a judge to understand what they have to accomplish to stop fluoride from being added to the water.
"I believe they have been very effective, both the letters to the editor and public notices," Parker told the crowd. "Nothing but good information for the people to know."
The efforts of the group are going to be long term, he said, because the Greater Pine Island Water Association has the authority to do what it has done - approve a grant that will provide the funds to construct the infrastructure and purchase equipment needed to add residual fluoride to the water system.
Parker said the GPIWA has corporate authority, which means it has all the authority that a corporation has under the state of Florida. He said if it operates within those parameters it can do what it wants.
"What limits them is what we place in our bylaws," he told everyone. "The problem that we have is that our bylaws are so weak, it allows them to do what they want to do."
The bylaws that Parker would like to see added include more limiting language for the board, monthly meetings instead of quarterly, Florida Sunshine Law requirements, council for GPIWA members and open access to the alternative addresses and phone numbers to all the members.
He told the audience that they must reconstruct the bylaws, which is also an elective process, so they can give members more latitude to challenge the board.
"We as members have done everything we can to tell them we don't want fluoride in our water," he said.
The long march that Parker expects to take place to see changes with the GPIWA board of directors starts with electing people for the board that will represent the members.
Parker said the members can nominate an individual to the board with 25 signatures.
"We can nominate members to the board with 25 signatures, we can nominate anyone from that district," he said. "They will be placed on the ballot with 25 signatures."
Parker said they need people on the board that have time and will not represent their business interests, but rather the interest of the members.
With 600 signatures from the members, Parker said they can place amending the bylaws on the ballot by Nov. 1 for the next election of the annual meeting.
"If we are successful, it will change the bylaws," he said.
A petition is also circulating by the organization to provide members with the opportunity to vote against the GPIWA placing any substance in the water that does not sanitize the water.
"They have to tell us what they put in the water within 30 days, if not mandated by the government, we can remove it," Parker said.
The petition is currently being sent out of state to the seasonal residents of Pine Island with a cover letter discussing facts about the harms of fluoride.
Reality set in for those at the meeting when they realized that unless they get enough community involvement to turn around the board's approval of adding fluoride to the water, they will most likely be drinking the substance.
Parker suggested to the crowd that they drink bottled water or purchase a reverse osmosis system, so they will not be drinking fluoride. He said an aluminum-based filter takes out 90 percent of the fluoride from water.
"Fluorine is an element," Parker told the crowd. "A nasty one, it wants to attach to something. Once it enters your body it wants to grab something."
Parker then took the audience through a 60-plus-page slide show that began with articles about the approval of the fluoride grant in May, to the organization of Citizens of Safe Water to and explanation of fluoride and how the compound attaches itself to things, as well as how it affects individuals. The PowerPoint presentation will be used to educate the public once it is completed.