FARMINGTON — A lack of chemical labeling on the fluoride being added to Davis County’s drinking water has the Davis County Commission exploring its options.
To prevent a worst-case scenario liability concern, which could arise in the event of a legal challenge, or having to respond to a chemical spill, the commission by consensus agreed to review the matter before coming back and incorporating some type of action.
“There is much to be explored and investigated,” County Commissioner Louenda Downs said. “All of my questions have not been answered.”
One option being entertained by the commission is to subpoena the fluoride suppliers and have them provide a full account of what chemicals are in the county’s fluoride mix.
Those same suppliers failed to willingly provide that information to Davis County Attorney Troy Rawlings upon request.
In the meantime, Davis County Health Director Lewis R. Garrett says the county’s drinking water is safe. He said water operators across the county are in compliance with federal and state safe drinking water regulations.
“We take those issues seriously,” Garrett said.
The fluoride-labeling issue surfaced Tuesday after Rawlings presented to the commission the findings from his effort to respond to concerns Waterwatch of Utah Director Lorna Rosenstein had submitted in writing to his office in October 2009.
Rosenstein, a safe drinking water advocate, was concerned about the health department’s decision in 2006 not to issue a health advisory warning parents of the risk of overexposing infants to fluoride after a similar warning was issued by federal health organizations.
In his research, Rawlings said, he did not find the county or health department to be liable in how it handled that advisory, where county health reacted by re-adjusting downward the amount of fluoride being added to the county’s drinking water.
Rosenstein approached the Davis Board of Health earlier this month, asking that they reconsider issuing a health advisory warning parents of the danger of overexposing infants to fluoride. The health board took her request under advisement.
But one potential liability concern to the county, Rawlings said, is the county’s inability to tell the public what is being added to its drinking water, because of the lack of chemical labeling by its suppliers.
In a letter requesting that information, Rawlings said, two of the companies contacted him refusing to reveal the chemical ingredients in the fluoride, while three other suppliers failed to respond at all.
The same letter drafted by Rawlings was sent to the suppliers under the heading of the State Department of Environmental Quality. It too received no response from suppliers.
“Should it matter to us that we are able to tell the public what is being put into the water?” Rawlings asked the commission.
And where the county is now aware of this situation, he said, its knowledge could be used to “get around” the government immunity protecting the county in the event of a legal challenge.
Four options available to the county to resolve this situation are to take no action and rely on the health department to continue to regulate the process; establish a committee to look at the concern scientifically; hold a legal hearing to get the chemical ingredients from suppliers; or put the fluoride issue back on the election ballot for a third vote, Rawlings said.
In 2000, by 52 to 48 percent, voters approved adding fluoride to the county’s drinking water. That vote was reaffirmed in 2004, when voters by a 51 to 49 percent margin approved adding fluoride to the drinking water.
“I favor a subpoenaed hearing,” Rosenstein said. “It is the only way we are going to get clear answers to this.”
County Commissioner John Petroff Jr. said that at first glance he favors establishing a committee to look at the issue scientifically.
County Commissioner Bret Millburn said reviewing the matter would give him the opportunity to do some homework.