A small-town water manager had some pretty out-there ideas about fluoride in the water, so much so that he lowered levels of the chemical in the town’s water supply for years without telling anybody for over a decade of nearly 30 years of his position.
Kendall Chamberlin, the now-resigned water and wastewater supervisor in the small Vermont town of Richmond, had been secretly reducing the fluoride levels in the local water supply for years and years. According to an AP report from earlier this month, Chamberlain finally admitted to the town’s Water and Sewer Commission that he had been making those unilateral changes to the town’s water content. He told the town this was “to err on the side of caution,” because his duty “is to to take responsible care and judgment for the protection of public health.”
In previous town meeting videos Chamberlin looks like a gussied-up Tolkien-esque wizard, like a combination of wizards Saruman the White and Radagast the Brown. During those meetings he also made excuses that seemed to touch on decade-long fluoride conspiracies in his five-page resignation letter (thanks VTDigger). Chamberlain wrote that he always accurately reported measured fluoride levels in the town’s water system, which were signed off by the town administrator, but he also said he had been keeping levels below state-recommended ranges for more than a decade.
In his letter, he called fluoride “a toxic chemical with significant known health risks,” and said “I cannot in good conscience be a party to this.”
Fluoride is a constant punching bag for conspiracists, and it has been for decades. Back in the cold war era, it was considered a kind of plot by the soviets to weaken the U.S. In modern day, blowhard conspiracist and routine liar Alex Jones took up the trumpet against fluoride. Though his “turn the frogs gay”-type rhetoric have been some of his less-harmful demagoguery campaigns compared to what he’s said about the Sandy Hook school massacre.
In a Sept. 19 water and sewer meeting, Chamberlin claimed that fluoride comes from China, and it can’t be trusted. This is a common conspiracy theory that has circulated online for years. Some Fluoride is sourced from China, but the Centers for Disease Control told AP those chemicals need to meet strict safety standards. Chamberlin submitted his resignation Monday, and town officials declined to comment on his departure citing that it was a “personnel issue.”
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and all state health departments advise low levels of fluoride added to water supplies at around .7 milligrams per liter. During the September meeting, Town Manager Josh Arneson said he was informed by the Vermont Department of Health that Richmond’s fluoride levels were around .3 milligrams per liter. Richmond had agreed to put fluoride in the groundwater since 1983, according to Arneson, but town officials noted that levels were consistently under .7 milligrams month after month for nearly the last four years.
During the meeting, Chamberlin told officials “There is a lot of information that is out there, and we should have a referendum on it.” He further compared fluoride to PFAS, a series of manmade chemical compounds which has caused multiple health issues in humans and animals. Conspiracists often conflate the crafted and harmful “poly-fluorinated alkyl substances” to fluoride, a naturally-occurring chemical that has been regularly noted as fine for humans as long as it’s taken in certain prescribed amounts (just like practically any chemical the body imbibes).
In the U.S., fluoride is added to 70% of municipal water supplies for the purpose of protecting residents’ teeth, according to the CDC. The whole deal started after an initial test in 1945 showed children in Grand Rapids, Michigan had fewer cavities in their teeth.
As of Richmond’s last water meeting, fluoride levels were back up to .6 milligrams per liter as of Oct. 5. Arneson said “going forward, we will target” levels of .7 milligrams per liter. The town’s now looking for another water guru to supervise testing, likely hoping this next person won’t also be secretly into age-old conspiracies.