The El Centro City Council was advised by the county Public Health Department that the city may be required to adopt a fluoridation program for its water delivery system during its May 3 regular meeting. | VIDEO CAPTURE

City Passed 10,000-Water-Connection Threshold, Calexico Approaching That Mark

EL CENTRO — The city of El Centro has reached the state’s threshold for water service connections that may require it to adopt a costly water fluoridation program.

By law, community water systems that have more than 10,000 hookups are required to fluoridate their systems if funds are available.

El Centro had reached the state’s threshold a few months back, county Public Health Department manager Adriana Ramirez told the City Council during a presentation on May 3.

When determining whether a community is required to adopt a fluoridation program, it must consider the availability of funds that are not generated from rate and tax payers, Ramirez said.

One potential funding source would be the state’s Safe and Affordable Funding for Equity and Resilience Drinking Water Program, which has billions of dollars in funds.

In the absence of any available funds, the city would be exempt from complying with the state’s law, she said.

“This is a costly project that the city of El Centro will have to decide if they want to undertake,” Ramirez said during a presentation that was for informational purposes only and did not require any formal action of the El Centro City Council. “This is something that is going to take many years of work.”

Nonetheless, she did indicate that city and county Environmental Health Division officials can expect to soon begin talks about the matter. She also stated that the city of Calexico is nearing the 10,000-water-connection threshold that would require it to similarly consider a fluoridation program.

Since 1995, public water systems that have at least 10,000 service connections are required to fluoridate their water, pending the availability of funds.

The addition of optimal amounts of fluoride in drinking water systems is said to help prevent tooth decay, especially among young children, Public Health’s Ramirez said.

For the past five years, Public Health has been administering an oral health program aimed at young schoolchildren. That state-funded program recently got a five-year extension, she said. The program also provides educational outreach about how fluoridated water helps prevent tooth decay.

For every dollar that is invested in a water supply’s fluoridation, it saves the community about $32 to $45 in unnecessary dental costs, or the price of getting a tooth’s cavity filled, Ramirez said.

Nor is there any credible evidence that fluoridated water is unsafe to consume, she said.

During the presentation, council member Cheryl Viegas-Walker asked what the benefits were of having the city’s water supply fluoridated, since most people do not drink it. Ramirez responded that it is not uncommon for low-income households to drink tap water.

Viegas-Walker then stated that the city’s water users could all benefit if the fluoridation process was to result in better tasting water. Ramirez said that because of the extensive infrastructure upgrades that the fluoridation process requires to the city’s water delivery system, improved tap water taste could be a likely outcome.

Mayor Tomas Oliva said that besides the science that has demonstrated the benefits of fluoridated water on oral health, the city would have to muster the political will if a fluoridation system were to be pursued.

“From this point on we will have to sit down, look at numbers, look at policies and see if it’s something that we can discuss in the months to come,” Oliva said.

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