More than a year after city leaders accepted a grant to fluoridate Spokane’s water supply, they are poised to embark on a study to gauge the potential costs and hurdles.
The City Council will vote Feb. 14 on a contract with engineering firm Murraysmith, which will analyze how the city could add fluoride to its seven drinking water wells.
The results of the analysis will likely play a key role in determining whether the city will move forward with fluoridation of its drinking water.
“It’s going to be a highly technical study,” Katherine Miller, the city’s director of integrated capital management, told the City Council during a committee meeting on Monday.
Fluoride is a widely used additive to drinking water that is endorsed by major medical associations as a safe way to prevent tooth decay, but staunch opposition over the course of decades has prevented fluoridation in Spokane.
The council accepted a $4 million grant from the Arcora Foundation to help pay for the cost of fluoridation in 2020.
The process was meant to begin with a feasibility study, but the city held off because the original grant agreement required it to return the grant money if it ultimately chose not to fluoridate the water.
Last year, the city and Arcora – the nonprofit arm of dental insurer Delta Dental – amended the grant agreement to ensure that Spokane could spend up to $600,000 on a feasibility study and back out without repercussions.
In the months since, the city designed a request for qualifications and solicited responses. Murraysmith was the only firm to respond, but was reviewed by city leaders and determined to be qualified.
The city’s drinking water is supplied by seven wells of varying ages, layouts and locations, Miller noted. The analysis will explore other cities’ fluoridation systems and partially design one for Spokane.
The analysis will project the cost of not only implementing a fluoridation system, but the cost of maintaining one.
The study is expected to take about 18 months to complete.
The council is also expected to commit, in the form of a resolution, to publicly vetting the study’s results before taking any action on fluoridation.
The City Council can order fluoride be added to the water supply, but it remains unclear if it will do so without sending the matter to voters for an advisory vote. Mayor Nadine Woodward has called for the issue to be left to voters. Proposals to add fluoride to Spokane’s water have been rejected by voters three times in the past, most recently in 2000.
Editor’s note: This article was changed on Feb. 1 to correct the date of a council meeting to fund a fluoridation analysis. The decision is expected to be made on Feb. 14. The amount of the Arcora Foundation grant was $4 million, not $6 million.
*Original article online at https://www.spokesman.com/stories/2022/feb/01/at-long-last-city-nears-fluoride-study/