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Last year it cost Saint John $177,000 to add fluoride to the water system, with people consuming only 1 per cent of the fluoride added, according to city staff. (CBC)

An attempt to get the province involved in fluoride treatment in Saint John was defeated at city council Monday night.

The $177,000 annual cost to fluoridate the city's water supply was the decisive issue in the council vote earlier this month to end the practice.

Despite the urging of dentists and doctors, the majority of councillors decided the treatment was not a worthwhile expense.

The vote resulted in a 5-5 tie, which was broken by Mayor Mel Norton. He reasoned health care isn't a city responsibility and voted to stop adding it.

A new motion by Coun. John MacKenzie called on the New Brunswick government to assess how much money the health care system saves by having fluoridated drinking water, and suggested the province take on the expense if cost benefits are detected.

"What this motion is saying, basically, is take some of that savings and put it back, don't put the cost on municipalities," said MacKenzie.

The issue found even less support this week, with only two other councillors voting with MacKenzie.

"I can't change my mind in a week," said Coun. Shirley McAlary, one of the 'no' voters.

"I have heard nothing this week that has given me any confidence to change my vote. The other thing is, why would I vote for the City of Saint John not to put fluoride in the water, then pass it onto the province [to] do it?"

McAlary reminded councillors it will be difficult for a future council to reintroduce fluoride.

Such a move would involve reopening the operating contract for the public-private water treatment system  something that would likely be too expensive to change, she said.