Union rep asks Bellefonte to cease and desist ‘unsafe’ fluoride practices

The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees asked the borough in a letter to cease and desist “unsafe” fluoride practices at its water plant.

Kimberly George, the union representative who wrote the letter, could not be reached for comment.

The letter, though it does not specify the borough’s fluoride practices as a concern, had an attachment of council’s Nov. 16 meeting minutes related to fluoridating Bellefonte water. George said in the letter she knows chemical issues were brought to the borough’s attention during the meeting.

If we can set up a meeting with union officials to discuss these issues, we’ll see what we can do to resolve this.

Borough Manager Ralph Stewart

“It is my intention, as I am hoping it is yours, to make the work environment as safe as possible for the employees of Bellefonte borough,” George said in the letter. “Since you are aware of the hazard please rectify the situation at hand so no litigation occurs for the borough, which would be out of my hands if injury would occur.”

Borough Manager Ralph Stewart said he did not want to guess what issues George referred to, because they were not specified in the letter. He acknowledged, however, that some unsafe fluoridating practices include no shower and eye wash station inside the building where employees fluoridate the water.

“We have taken some temporary measures to make sure protective equipment is worn by our personnel,” he said. “There are other safety concerns, like a lack of shower in case of an emergency and the lack of eye wash station. I want to verify those and any other concerns they have.”

Stewart felt the best means to a resolution would be to meet with AFSCME officials.

“What I did is I forward the letter to council and authority, and the borough authority oversees the policies of the water system, so I would expect it’s on their next agenda,” Stewart said. “If we can set up a meeting with union officials to discuss these issues, we’ll see what we can do to resolve this.”

The borough still fluoridates its water system, though decisions by the borough authority and state Department of Environmental Protection would allow the authority to discontinue the practice. Several residents and council, however, appealed DEP’s decision.

In other business at council’s meeting, Mayor Tom Wilson swore in two new members, Joanne Tosti-Vasey and Doug Johnson.

Council members Tosti-Vasey, Johnson, Gay Dunne, Paul DeCusati and Karen Harvey voted for Dunne to be council president. Council member Randy Brachbill, who was also nominated for council president, was elected vice president by Barry Spicer, Renee Brown, Joseph Beigle, DeCusati, Johnson and himself. DeCusati was unanimously voted pro tempore.

Shawn Annarelli: 814-235-3928, @Shawn_Annarelli