FARMINGTON — Davis County voters apparently have seen the last of fluoride on their ballots.
By a vote of 51,581 to 49,399 — a 51 to 49 percent tally — residents decided to continue fluoridation of their drinking water with one part fluoride per million to help fight child tooth decay.
Tuesday’s vote was the second time in the last four years Davis County residents have spoken at the polls about fluoride. And at least one leading anti-fluoride advocate says the issue won’t be back on the ballot again.
Dave A. Hansen, chairman of Citizens For Safe Drinking Water, said he doesn’t know if his grass-roots volunteer group, which opposes fluoride, could have done anything differently to tilt the election in its favor. He ruled out pursuing another ballot initiative for 2008.
The close numbers, however, did give Hansen cause to claim a moral victory over fluoride proponents, who have often referred to opponents as a “small minority.”
“They call this a small minority that opposes water fluoridation. That is not a small minority,” he said of the numbers.
Hansen said the vote tells him that once fluoride equipment is installed, it is difficult to defeat. But to bring the vote even closer than what it was in 2000, he believes, reflects a “successful effort.”
“Less than 1 percent of the people decided this,” Hansen said.
In 2000, fluoride was approved by a margin of 3,453 votes, or 52 to 48 percent.
The issue, which resulted in Davis neighborhoods being dotted with small yard signs emphasizing a “Yes” or a “No” vote, ended up being the most hotly contested race in the county.
Davis County Health Director Lewis R. Garrett had hoped a revote would result in a wider margin of victory for fluoridation. He said that is a trend in other fluoridation revotes that have taken place over the years in other states.
Yet Tuesday’s vote, with just more than 100,000 ballots cast, only got closer with about 2,200 votes separating the two sides.
Beth Beck, a former Davis Health Board member who was instrumental in implementing fluoridation, said the fluoride vote was close because some voters may not have realized that fluoride was already in the water, as well as opponents bringing in international anti-fluoride experts.
“We were always ahead. But I couldn’t rest easy until I saw how it turned out,” she said, surprised at the closeness of the contest and relieved to hear Hansen’s intentions of not seeking a second revote on the proposition.
“I thought we would win by a higher margin,” Beck said. But upon seeing final results on her home computer at 2:15 a.m. Wednesday, Beck was elated.
“I think we won an NBA championship. The Jazz beat the Bulls after all,” she said.