EAST WENATCHEE — Eastside residents will vote on fluoridation of the regional water system in the Nov. 7 general election. It will be a non-binding, advisory vote. Neither proponents nor opponents are entirely happy.
The East Wenatchee Water District’s three commissioners voted unanimously Monday to put the issue on the ballot. Only the district’s 13,000-plus registered voters will be eligible to vote. The measure won’t be on the ballot in Wenatchee or Chelan County.
Commissioners said they will follow the will of the majority of voters if:
* The Washington Dental Service Foundation pays for installation and the first year of operations of equipment.
* The system meets design criteria of the regional water owners (the water district, city of Wenatchee and Chelan County PUD).
* The foundation and system builder, CH2M Hill of Bellevue, indemnifies the district against any claims relating to design, construction, installation and operation during the first year.
Commissioner Matt Warner said Ruth C. “Rudi” Pauly, a member of the pro-fluoridation Wenatchee Valley Citizens for Healthy Teeth, “chewed him out” earlier in the day because the vote won’t be binding.
“I thought she would be tickled pink that we would get this on as opposed to nothing at all,” Warner said. “I was sorry she wasn’t of that opinion.”
Pauly could not be reached for comment.
Commissioners said they couldn’t make the ballot measure binding because indemnification and design questions remain.
Laurie Roy, dental hygienist for the Chelan-Douglas Health District, said she expected commissioners to endorse fluoridation. She was disappointed they didn’t, but said at least people will be able to vote.
Fluoridation opponents were glad the vote isn’t binding but didn’t want any vote.
One of them, Larry Wilcox of Wenatchee, gave commissioners a list of 62 jurisdictions in the United States and Canada he said have stopped fluoridating their water since 1990.
Eileen Kirkpatrick of East Wenatchee said she’s concerned voters won’t realize they are voting on fluosilicic acid, a fertilizer-grade fluoride, not the pharmaceutical-grade fluoride found in toothpaste. She said it’s only 42 percent fluoride and contains lots of other elements, including lead and mercury, that domestic water can’t have above certain levels.
Commissioner Glen Broadsword, who has opposed fluoridation, said he voted for the advisory ballot because he felt commissioners owed it to proponents.
“There’s been so much discussion for almost a year,” he said. “We want to get a feel from the rate payers.”
Commissioners said fluoridation would cause water rates to increase. They didn’t say by how much. Greg Brizendine, water district manager, said rates would go up to cover operation and maintenance costs, and equipment replacement not covered by the foundation.
He said fluoride is an extremely corrosive substance that, in concentrate, destroys equipment. He said the injection equipment will have to be replaced in seven years and the foundation grant doesn’t cover it. He said the effect on water pipes will be far less because the fluoride in them will be diluted.
Brizendine said CH2M Hill budgeted far less than needed in its first-year costs for fluoridation monitoring, proposing a level which doesn’t meet state Department of Health requirements.
He said he, PUD and city officials are concerned about CH2M’s plan to place a 6,000-gallon, plastic tank for the fluoride outside where it could easily be penetrated by bullets and any spills would not be adequately contained.