The Salt Lake County Council will consider placing the water fluoridation issue on next year’s ballot after three Salt Lake County cities sent letters asking that the controversial issue be revisited.
West Jordan, Sandy and Riverton requested a second vote on the matter.
Salt Lake County residents approved the fluoridation measure in 2000 by a margin of 58 percent to 42 percent. But fluoridation opponents have since complained that the public was not adequately educated on the potential risks of water fluoridation.
The cities say it is costing them millions to install the equipment needed to fluoridate all water sources, including city wells used only on a seasonal basis.
Some of the action by city officials comes after the Davis County Commission voted earlier this month to put a fluoride measure back on the ballot next year.
The Utah Legislature this year gave counties the option for countywide referenda to disallow fluoride in their water. Each county can call for but is not required to conduct a revote.
West Jordan City Councilman Andrew Allison said he pushed for a city resolution after hearing concerns from many West Jordan residents.
“I think there are a lot of scientific studies that bring up legitimate issues,” he said.
According to West Jordan’s resolution, many residents feel water fluoridation constitutes a “forced medication” of the public.
Sandy spokesman Ryan Mecham said it’s the cost that is most objectionable to his city.
Mecham said Sandy receives about 70 percent of its water from a local water district. But during the summer months, when water demands increase, Sandy supplements its water supply with 23 city wells. Under the county’s fluoridation measure, he said the city has spent about $1.4 million to outfit those wells with fluoridation equipment.
“That almost exclusively ends up on lawns,” Mecham said.
But will the Salt Lake County Council listen? Yes, according to County Council chairman Michael Jensen.
“I can’t tell you now if the council is leaning one way or the other,” Jensen said. “We have not had a vote on putting this back on the ballot.”
Jensen said his office has received two of the three letters. He anticipates the County Council will send an invitation to all Salt Lake County city officials to attend a meeting sometime after the holiday season.
“We haven’t taken a position, but with these letters, we will have them come in and make their case,” Jensen said. “We’ll probably have to do multiple hearings.”
Some County Council members may argue in favor of returning the issue to the ballot, while others may argue that county and city officials are simply second-guessing the will of voters, Jensen said.
Allison predicts those hearings will be filled with emotion.
“There are some people who have some very strong feelings on both sides,” he said.