The re-introduction of fluoride into Calgary’s drinking water is expected to take longer and cost more than originally anticipated.
Calgary city council voted in favour of adding fluoride to the city’s water supply in November 2021, after a plebiscite during the municipal election resulted in 62 per cent of Calgarians voting in support.
The project was originally slated to be completed sometime this year but was extended until June 2024. The latest timeline from the City of Calgary now anticipates the work to be completed by September 2024.
The implementation cost for infrastructure at the two water treatment plants has also grown to $28.1 million, from original estimates of $10.1 million.According to city officials, the new cost estimates account for inflation, and the additional project scope.
“We had a lot more information about the project that included some inflationary impacts,” City of Calgary utilities delivery manager Tanner Fellinger told Global News. “It also included some scope of work that one of our facilities requires an additional building as a result just to safely house the equipment and materials.”
Fluoride was removed from the city’s drinking water in 2011, and city officials said the infrastructure was decommissioned and removed following the decision to stop fluoridation.
The delay has prompted a group of 22 pediatricians to pen a letter to city manager David Duckworth outlining their frustrations with the timeline, including the “significant decline in oral health” since fluoride was removed from the city’s drinking water.
“The lack of water fluoridation affects everyone and especially children of low socioeconomic status,” the letter said. “For many vulnerable Calgary children, water fluoridation was their only form of dental protection.”
Juliet Guichon, president of Calgarians’ for Kids Health, said the situation is “an urgent matter of public health. It’s urgent that city administration pay attention to pediatricians who are trying to tell them that this public health measure must be restored as soon as possible.”
Ward 6 Coun. Richard Pootmans, who also championed the re-introduction of fluoride, said the city is “doing the best we can” given the inflationary environment.
“Everybody wishes it could occur a little more quickly, we’re sure that it is going forward,” he said.
According to the Alberta Dental Association and College, there are between 0.1 and 0.4 parts per million of fluoride naturally in Calgary’s drinking water.
When fluoride is reintroduced into the water system, it would be regulated at 0.7 parts per million.
According to city administration, fluoridation will include $864,000 annually in operating costs, and between $100,000 and $200,000 per year in maintenance costs.
The plan would be to absorb those costs into the water utility, which wouldn’t require an increase in water rates.
However, Guichon said the costs are worth it in the long run and will save money for both Calgary families and the healthcare system.
“That investment will save Calgarians an additional $55 in avoided dental and medical costs,” she said. “They won’t have the dental decay they would’ve had if we have water fluoridation and they won’t show up at the Children’s Hospital or at general hospitals for infection.”
City administration said it plans to award a contract for construction work in the coming weeks, but the September 2024 timeline is subject to change.
“That’s our best-educated guess right now.,” Fellinger said. “We feel like there’s a high chance we can hit that target, as long as something doesn’t drastically change.”
*Original full-text article online at: https://globalnews.ca/news/9843347/calgary-water-fluoridation-delay/