New York State In-depth

Buffalo residents are suing the city’s water board over fluoride deficiency

In a 55-page lawsuit, the three plaintiffs accuse the city of violating its fundamental right to a healthy environment.

BUFFALO, NY – The city of Buffalo is in hot water and is facing legal action from three of its residents.

“The community needs a lot more answers about what the schedule was here,” said Robert Corp, plaintiffs’ attorney.

In a 55-page lawsuit, the three plaintiffs allege that the city violated its constitutional right to a healthy environment under the state’s Green Amendment by depriving them of fluoridated drinking water.

The city stopped adding fluoride in 2015 after trying to upgrade its water system to switch fluoride addition from manual to automatic.

But concerned about lead contamination, the water board decided to conduct years of testing while completely removing fluoride from the city’s water system.

“Ultimately, the buck stops with me,” Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown said Friday. “Like others, I was not notified immediately. But it should have been me.”

It comes just days after the city and Mayor Brown publicly took responsibility for the lack of communication by alerting residents to the city’s changes to the water system, with the only public notice of the change coming in the last annual drinking water report. It stated that no fluoride has been added to drinking water since June 22, 2015 and that they do not expect to restore fluoride addition until various investment projects are completed.

“We should have shared the information with the community,” Brown said. “No apologies for that. Again, the Water Authority did what they did to protect the quality of Buffalo water and the transition of the system.”

In addition to seeking monetary damages for all residents and immediately adding fluoride to the water, plaintiffs are asking the city to add dental clinics to reverse some of the damage done.

“If they had been advised that they needed to find alternative sources of fluoride, maybe we could all have been proactive in finding a way to go about it,” Corp said.

The mayor said Friday the system changeover will be complete by the end of 2023 and liquid fluoride will be automatically added to Buffalo water, but plaintiff’s attorney said his clients wanted that change to happen much sooner.

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