After days of denials to Alaska press that the incident had occurred at all, the Bronson administration suddenly acknowledged that Mayor Dave Bronson had ordered a halt to Anchorage water fluoridation during an October 1 tour of an Anchorage Water and Wastewater Utility (AWWU) facility. The abrupt about-face attracted national attention and led to articles in the Daily Beast, the Associated Press, and Yahoo News. The New York Times picked up the story yesterday.
The Bronson administration claims that fluoride was removed from municipal water at the request of AWWU staff in order to protect worker safety, and that they were unaware their order violated law. However, emails obtained today by the Landmine from AWWU staff suggest that the administration is continuing to make false statements to the public and the Anchorage Assembly about the incident.
“At no time was city code violated”
A December 14 statement by Bronson Administration spokesperson Corey Allen Young claims the mayor had ordered fluoridation halted because fluoride “burned the eyes and throats of staff who handled it.” According to the statement, during the AWWU tour “Information was presented to the Mayor’s team that pausing the fluoridation of Anchorage’s water would not violate federal or sate law and didn’t violate Municipal Charter.”
In a municipal meeting yesterday regarding utilities, Municipal Manager Amy Demboski stated that Bronson had ordered fluoride removed from Anchorage water on October 1 because “multiple employees that were verbally talking about eye irritation, coughing, from handling the [fluoride].” According to Demboski, “at no time was city code violated.”
In the meeting, Deputy Municipal Manager Kolby Hickel stated that AWWU Manager Mark A. Corsentino and others had implored the administration to end municipal water fluoridation. According to Hickel, Corsentino and others “made it very clear to me that this chemical, even with proper PPP on, it burned their eyes, it burned their throats, it irritated their skin. It is something they don’t like to deal with.” Hickel stated that Corsentino had repeatedly advised her that ending fluoridation would save money and would be a “health improvement” for workers at AWWU.
Hickel stated that it was AWWU staff, and not the mayor, who turned off the fluoride. According to Hickel, “It was stated multiple times during this time that it would not break any state or federal regulations or charter. What they failed to mention was that it was actually in code. When we learned it was in code, Mr. Mayor and Ms. Demboski immediately ordered it to be turned back on.”
Mayor Bronson told that removing fluoride would violate law during tour, emails claim
This morning, the Landmine obtained an October 1 email sent from an AWWU staff member present on Bronson’s tour to Corsentino and others at AWWU. The email, sent shortly after the tour, states “It was explained to Mayor Bronson that Municipal Charter directs the AWWU water plants to dose fluoride, and it was not a compliance issue with AEDC.” The email claims that Bronson asked about the expense of adding fluoride to municipal water, and after receiving an answer ordered the municipality’s fluoridation systems turned off. The email contains no references to worker health or safety.
Corsentino replied soon after, CC’ing Deputy Municipal Manager Hickel. Corsentino stated that he had just spoken with Bronson and Demboski, and that while the two “support removing fluoride from our water,” they wished to do it legally. Corsentino continued, “Thank you for understanding any confusion this may have created, and we’ll continue to look at this issue to come up with a thoughtful sustainable path forward with respect to continuing to add fluoride to our water systems.”
Corsentino concluded by stating, “Thanks and have a great weekend, and excellent job by Eklutna staff on the tour given to the Mayor today, it was certainly exciting!”
The Landmine reached out to Corsentino for comment but has not received a response.
The Landmine contacted Broson spokesperson Corey Allen Young on December 14 to ask why the Mayor’s office had initially denied that the fluoride incident had taken place, but did not receive a response.