LOS ANGELES — Construction difficulties will again delay plans to start adding fluoride to San Diego County water supplies, this time until Dec. 3, officials from Southern California’s main water supplier said Wednesday.
After waiting four years to complete billions of dollars of improvements at five water treatment plants, the Metropolitan Water District had expected to start fluoridating in October.
However, the agency has had to bump that date back twice at the R.A. Skinner Treatment Plant near Temecula since August — from October to November and now December
Metropolitan spokesman Bob Muir said Wednesday the latest delay came after the agency’s staff discovered the galvanized steel it planned to use could corrode if it came in contact with the fluorosilicic acid that will fluoridate supplies.
The Los Angeles-based water district, which delivers water to nearly 18 million Southern Californians in six counties, including San Diego and Riverside, voted to start fluoridating its supplies in 2003 as a public health measure to fight dental disease.
However, Metropolitan waited for four years to complete billions of dollars of expansion work at its five treatment plants.
When Metropolitan actually begins adding the often-controversial compound, it will mean that most San Diego County residents will get fluoridated tap water.
According to the San Diego County Water Authority, only five of its 24 member agencies buy just “raw,” untreated water that would not be fluoridated — parts of Camp Pendleton, parts of San Diego, the Santa Fe Irrigation District, the city of Poway and Chula Vista’s South Bay Irrigation District.
Currently, just one San Diego County city, Escondido, has fluoridated water.
In August, when Metropolitan announced that it would finally start fluoridating its supplies four years after voting to do so, opponents and proponents came out in droves.
Proponents, including the California Department of Health Services and the California Dental Association applauded the move, saying it was a proven, safe, effective way to prevent now-rampant cavities and dental disease.
Vocal opponents including the San Diego-based Citizens for Safe Drinking Water, said fluoridation was mass medication or mass poisoning that could lead to cancer or other illnesses.
Fluoride can be a naturally occurring compound. However, opponents say that fluorosilicic acid is a synthetically produced fluoride that is a dangerous waste product.
Synthetically created fluorides have been used for decades in toothpaste to reduce cavities. It has also been put into water supplies of Americans since the 1940s.
Jeff Green, leader of the Citizens for Safe Drinking Water said Wednesday that his group, or others, could file lawsuits against Metropolitan and other water agencies once the fluoridation begins.
“I think it’s unlikely with all the people that will be affected that someone doesn’t step up and say, ‘you can’t do this,’ ” Green said.