Fluoride Action Network

Bay Point could get tapped with higher water bills again

Source: Contra Costa Times | East County Times
Posted on October 16th, 2008

Bay Point residents may soon have to reach deeper into their pockets to pay monthly water bills if they want fluoridated water.

As a condition of allowing Golden State Water Co. to raise water rates by 6.18 percent to improve service quality earlier this year, the state Public Utilities Commission stipulated that the private water supplier must submit a plan to fluoridate Bay Point’s water.

A Sept. 29 letter to the PUC described how much it would cost for fluoridation and to reduce chlorine byproducts known as trihalomethanes — the other issue raised during community meetings last year — along with a possible way to recover the costs. Company officials say the two issues are intertwined, and it would cost more in the long run to handle them separately.

The two options recommended by Golden State could raise water rates by 22 percent or 29 percent. The public has 20 days from the letter date to comment on the fluoride proposal, though the county plans to file an extension.

Currently, the county’s Health Services Department is crafting a response to the letter, including input from Supervisor Federal Glover, whose district includes Bay Point.

Issues that will be addressed in the response by county Health Director Dr. William Walker include whether Golden State’s advice letter was appropriate because it went beyond discussing fluoridation in mentioning trihalomethane improvements, as well as whether ratepayers should bear such high costs compared with the water company, said Michael Kent, the county’s environmental hazards ombudsman.

Kerrie Evans, policy analyst with the PUC, said Wednesday she had not received comments about the letter.

“If the community has complaints about the proposal, now is the time,” she said.

Once the comment period expires, the PUC will consider whether Golden State’s request is reasonable. The proposal can be granted, partially accepted or rejected, Evans said, adding that there is no time frame for this analysis.

Bay Point residents pay the most for water in central and eastern Contra Costa, even though a third of its residents live below the poverty line, county health officials said. They also say Bay Point has the worst water quality in East County.

The options considered by Golden State are fluoridating the water itself or purchasing treated water from the Contra Costa Water District on a full-time basis, said John Dewey, Golden State’s community education manager.

The fluoridation option would increase the bill for a typical user from $79.74 per month to $102.54, or an increase of 29 percent, according to the Golden State plan. Purchasing treated water from the Contra Costa Water District would raise that bill to $97.22, a 22 percent increase.

Earlier this year, Golden State entered into a temporary agreement with the water district to purchase additional treated water while Golden State sought a permanent solution to lowering trihalomethanes. Trihalomethanes are a hazardous byproduct of the water-treatment process that studies have linked to higher rates of miscarriage and cancer risk.

The option of tapping into Contra Costa Water District’s supply at Randall-Bold Water Treatment Plant in Oakley is more cost-efficient than retrofitting the Hill Street Water Treatment Plant in Bay Point, Dewey said.

Golden State would continue to operate its own wells and distribute the water with this option, Dewey said.

Water rates in Bay Point are higher than those of neighboring communities, company officials have said, because the company’s approximately 5,000 customers there must bear all facilities and operating costs. Bay Point is the only community in the Contra Costa Water District served by a private, investor-owned supplier.

Golden State will be happy to meet with those interested in discussing the plan, Dewey said, adding that the proposal would be looked at thoroughly by the PUC.