ALBUQUERQUE, MAY 18 – The Water Authority’s governing board tonight voted 4-2 to remove proposed funding for supplemental drinking water fluoridation from the utility’s FY 2017 budget.
Some $250,000 had originally been budgeted for the installation of fluoridation equipment, with another $250,000 slated for annual operations and maintenance.
The Board’s decision means that the utility will not resume supplemental fluoridation, a practice it stopped in 2011 pending issuance of updated guidelines from the federal government. Fluoride occurs naturally in Albuquerque’s drinking water at about 0.5 parts per million; the federal recommended optimal level is 0.7 parts per million, per guidelines issued in late 2015.
The rest of the budget was approved. It includes an additional $8 million for capital projects, with no rate increase, and virtually no change to operating expenses compared to last year.
According to a Fluoridation Update (Posted April 15, 2016) on the Albuquerque Bernalillo County Water Utility Authority website:
The Water Authority ceased adding supplemental fluoride to the municipal drinking water supply in 2011 pending final recommendation on optimal fluoride levels from the federal government. CDC eventually issued a recommended optimal level of 0.7 mg/L in 2015. Water Authority staff responded by developing a fluoridation plan to meet – as closely as possible – the recommended optimal level system-wide. The plan and associated expenditures for implementation must still be approved by the Water Authority’s Governing Board at its regularly scheduled May 18, 2016 meeting.
Addition of fluoride would take place at the Water Authority’s San Juan-Chama plant, which treats all the surface water used throughout the Water Authority’s system. This is a secure facility, designed for safe handling of bulk chemicals. When the San Juan-Chama plant is producing water, fluoride levels for customers will average 0.7 mg/L
During periods when the San Juan-Chama plant is offline (e.g., maintenance, inadequate river flows), groundwater with naturally occurring fluoride averaging 0.5 mg/L will be distributed to customers. Regardless, fluoride levels will always remain below the EPA secondary maximum contaminant level of 2.0 mg/L
If approved as part of the FY 2017 budget by Water Authority Board at its May 2016 meeting, construction project planning could get under way as soon as July of 2016. Estimated completion would be spring of 2017.
Pursuant to obtaining public input on this issue, the Water Authority conducted a town hall meeting on April 9, 2014, at the African American Performing Arts Center. About 70 people attended the meeting, and presentations were made by Water Authority staff and experts opposed to and in favor of fluoridation (click on links to download copies of the presentations).