Legislator Johnson calls Water Authority's handling of lack of fluoride in water 'a big misstep'

Erie County Legislator Howard Johnson speaks about the City of Buffalo's fluoride situation in the drinking water
Drinking water
Photo credit Getty Images

Buffalo, N.Y. (WBEN) - Public response to the lack of fluoride in the City of Buffalo's drinking water supply continues to flood in from a number of different directions, with more reaction coming Thursday from Erie County Legislator Howard Johnson.

Following Thursday's committee meetings at the Erie County Legislature building, the District 1 representative provided his thoughts more than a week upon the news of fluoride not being in the drinking water for city residents since 2015.

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"It caught me totally off guard," said Johnson on Thursday. "When I had seen it and read it, I was like, 'Wow, I didn't know.' Since 2015, we haven't had any fluoride in the water? That's going to affect generations to come. And to not have notice of it, to say, 'Hey, there's no fluoride in the water. You might want to buy fluoride toothpaste.' I think as I was a big misstep."

While Johnson doesn't know where, when and how the message didn't get through to the residents of Buffalo from the Water Authority, he believes city water officials needed to do a better job of properly addressing people on all that was happening when that decision came down eight years ago.

"You would think that the Water Authority would've took the time to, at least, talk to the residents, or to have a town hall meeting or public hearing and say, 'This is what's happening, this is why we can't do it.' Whether it was equipment issues, financials or whatever it may have been, they could have come out and told the public. I think that was a giant misstep from them, as well," Johnson said.

According to Buffalo Water Board Chairman OJ McFoy in an interview with WBEN, while the message was sent out to residents of the fluoride being removed from the water in 2015, he admits in hindsight, the process could have been executed a bit better.

In any event, McFoy has agreed to speak with the Buffalo Common Council next week to further discuss the matter and answer any questions from members of the council.

While Johnson is unsure of what Erie County may be able to do to play a role in addressing the matter, he does believe the county's Health Department could maybe try to step in and provide some additional information that can be valuable for the city and its Water Authority going forward.

"I think they could weigh in on the matter and talk about the importance of having that fluoride in the water, and push for a little urgency on the Water Authority to ramp up their efforts to get that fluoride back into water," he said.

As Buffalo deals with the matter at-hand going forward, Johnson says he is concerned about there being other issues such as this elsewhere in Erie County. He points to the problems that Flint, Michigan had with their water several years ago, and the implications that effect had on residents there.

"These are things that you don't expect to happen in Western New York, in our region, in our area, but these are things that are starting to happen, and I think that we have to be proactive in notifying folks, actually getting that information out to the public," Johnson said.

As the Water Authority gets set to meet with the Buffalo Common Council this upcoming Tuesday, Johnson will be glued in on what McFoy has to say before the governing body. He hopes to get more answers and clarity on all that happened before, and what's being done now and beyond to ensure to safety of Buffalo's drinking water for its residents.

"I want to hear a plan from the Water Authority. I want to hear a plan for what they're going to do, how they're going to do it, and when they're going to do it. That's the only acceptable items," Johnson said. "I know in reading the article in the paper, I know that they are taking the steps to rectify this, but I think time is of the essence. Urgency is upon us, because we have a lot of kids who drink that water and things of that nature. That fluoride is very unnecessary as they grow and develop, and I think providing that early and often is what they should be doing."

Featured Image Photo Credit: Getty Images