ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Let the fluoride wars begin, again.
The public will have two opportunities to voice its opinions about drinking-water fluoridation when the Albuquerque Bernalillo County Water Utility Authority takes up the issue in June and August.
The utility board will hear a presentation about fluoridation at its June 21 meeting. On Aug. 23, the board will take up a $260,000 capital appropriation to pay for the equipment needed to add the mineral to the water supply.
Chairwoman Klarissa Peña said she asked the board to revisit the issue to give the public a chance to sound off about supplemental drinking-water fluoridation.
“We’re aiming for transparency,” she said. “Regardless of what side of the issue you are on, people have the right to have an opportunity to voice their opinions.”
Fluoride is a mineral found naturally in drinking water. Natural levels in Albuquerque’s water supply range from 0.4-0.5 parts per million, the utility has said.
On Wednesday, the board voted 3-2 for an amendment to the utility’s operating budget to appropriate funds for fluoridation. The amendment was not listed on the board’s agenda.
Mark Sanchez, the utility’s executive director, said the amendment appropriated about $270,000 to operate the water fluoridation system.
The board also must approve a $260,000 capital appropriation to pay for the equipment needed to add fluoride at the utility’s water treatment plant, Sanchez said. The board will consider that appropriation at its Aug. 23 meeting.
If the board rejects the capital appropriation, the utility would have no authorization to install the chemical-feed system needed to add supplemental fluoride to the water supply, he said.
Peña said she voted against the amendment Wednesday because it was added without public notice.
“I just think that anytime we bring it up that the public should have an opportunity to be heard,” she said.
Dental and public health groups, including the state Department of Health and the New Mexico Dental Association, support fluoridation as a way of improving dental health, particularly among low-income children.
Others oppose supplemental fluoridation for a variety of reasons, including health threats and human rights violations.
The fluoridation issue here was reignited in 2011 when staff members at the utility ended the 39-year practice of adding fluoride to the water supply.
In 2014, the board voted 6-1 against a measure that would have required the utility to add fluoride to the water supply to a level of 0.7 parts per million.
Before that decision, a public meeting attracted about 60 people, including dentists and out-of-state experts, both in support and opposition to fluoridation.
• Original article online at https://www.abqjournal.com/1006257/fluoridation-battle-to-be-waged-again.html