Fluoride Action Network

Bill Proposed in Utah to Protect Water Companies from Fluoridation Liabilities

Source: Deseret News | Deseret News staff writer
Posted on January 26th, 2001
Location: United States, Utah

Some health department officials are suspicious of a new piece of legislation they say may serve as a roadblock to water fluoridation in Salt Lake and Davis counties.

Senate Majority Leader Steve Poulton, R-Holladay, says he has a bill in the works that would create a task force to study the implementation of water fluoridation. Poulton insists the bill is not meant to hinder the process but rather to make it as safe as possible.

Dr. Anthony Tidwell of the Salt Lake Valley Health Department said he met recently with Poulton to discuss the bill and thinks it may be a way of putting off fluoridation indefinitely.

“I feel like it’s a way of stalling this. . . . I think it’s going against the will of the people,” he said.

Residents in Salt Lake and Davis counties voted in November to fluoridate public water supplies. Health boards in those counties, which have the charge of enforcing fluoridation, are now in the process of determining the best methods of getting fluoride in the water. They have estimated the process could take as long as a year and a half.

Some water companies, however, say they are worried about being held liable for problems and that they want to have the time they need to make sure fluoridation is done properly. Poulton was approached by attorneys for White City Water Improvement District in Sandy and concerned water engineers who wanted a bill to offer them some protection.

He says he is surprised anyone would oppose that idea.

“Every water company around, except the big ones, is worried about it,” he said. “The bill gives (water companies) the ability to delay until they can do it safely. . . . Who wouldn’t want the water companies to do it safely?”

Though Dr. Kathryn Vedder, executive director of the Salt Lake health department, says she can’t comment on a bill she hasn’t read, she says the process of implementing fluoride is a simple one and that water companies large and small will receive adequate training and information.

“We have this pretty well clarified,” she said. “This has been done across the country for some 30 years.”

The health board is planning on meeting with each water company to answer their questions and concerns, Vedder says, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will provide federally funded training for installation and operation.

“The handling of dangerous chemicals by water companies is not that unusual,” she said. “Chlorine is just as hard or even harder to handle.”