Eastern Municipal Water District will begin fluoridating water it sells to its San Jacinto Valley customers and to agencies that resell it to their customers in October.
Eastern’s parent water district, Metropolitan, has begun fluoridating water it sells to its member agencies, but Eastern will add the tooth decay-preventing chemical at its San Jacinto filtration plant.
The 10-million-gallon-per-day plant receives water from Metropolitan’s State Water Project line in western San Jacinto and processes it before sending it on to its 130,000 customers. EMWD also sells water to agencies such as Lake Hemet Municipal Water District and the city of Hemet.
The filtration plant is in the forefront of the fluoridation effort, but John Dotinga, water production manager, said the district will eventually fluoridate all the water it sells to customers.
—– CAPTION UNDER PHOTO OF TANK CONTAINING HYDROFLUOSILICIC ACID
LOTTA FLUORIDE: This is one of three tanks that contain the fluoride Eastern Municipal Water District began injecting into the water it supplies to homes and businesses in the San Jacinto Valley this week. Phil Lancaster, water production supervisor, left, and John Dotinga, water production manager, are beside the tanks.
Not all of the water that passes through the plant goes to homes and businesses.
Some goes into the ground, where it filters through the soil to the huge aquifer beneath San Jacinto.
The aquifer supplies water to some customers, particularly agricultural users.
That water is not fluoridated.
Amy Mora, senior environmental compliance analyst for Eastern, said not all of the water going to customers needs fluoridation either.
Groundwater contains be-tween two-tenths and five-tenths of a part per million without treatment, she said. The district will treat the water to a level of seven-tenths of a part per million.
Eastern provides water to a 555-square-mile area that stretches from Moreno Valley to Temecula and eastward into the San Jacinto Valley.
The point of fluoridating groundwater is to make it unnecessary for dentists to apply the chemical to the teeth of children in the office because they will get automatic treatment when they drink the water.
Eastern spokesman Peter Odencrans said the California Dental Association estimates that each dollar spent on water fluoridation saves $38 in dental bills.
In 2004, U.S. Surgeon General Richard H. Carmona declared, “Community water fluoridation continues to be the most cost-effective, practical, and safe means for reducing and controlling the occurrence of tooth decay in a community,” according to information supplied by Odencrans.
Depending on how much fluoride must be added and how often, the cost of fluoridation for customers is 3 cents to $3 per year, Mora said.
Mora said the district expects some resistance to fluoridation.
In fact, one woman has already called to complain that the fluoride made her sick.
The problem, said Mora, is that she called before fluoridation started.
Nonetheless, Eastern is notifying health care providers to suspend fluoride supplements for a year to see how patients react, Odencrans said.
Neither the taste nor the smell of water will change as the result of the addition of fluoride, Odencrans said.
The fluoride will be added the same way other chemicals that transform what district officials call raw water from the State Water Project line into the product delivered at taps across the San Jacinto Valley, which is to say it will be trickled into the water flow from two tanks containing 3,000 gallons each.
Dotinga said the tanks will last the district two to three months, depending on how much water flows through the plant and how much fluoride has to be added to the water to bring it to the seven-tenths of a part per million standard.
The fluoride is delivered to the plant from a truck that has a fitting that can be mated only with the intake at the fluoride tank.
That, said officials, keeps human error out of the equation by making it impossible to deliver some other chemical to the fluoride tanks.
Fluoridation will be the last step before the water moves into the pipes that will carry it to customers.
Fluoridation has been a long time coming.
Gov. Pete Wilson signed a bill requiring it in all large water districts in 1995, but neither Eastern nor its parent, Metropolitan, took action.
It was not until the California Dental Association Foundation gave Metropolitan $5.5 million to build fluoridation facilities in 2003 that the district began work.