To fluoridate or not to fluoridate. The battle rages on.
At least in the east-side Salt Lake Valley community of Holladay – and in the mind of state Rep. Sylvia Andersen, R-Sandy.
Holladay is where faucets servicing 15,000 residents still dispense nonfluoridated water – despite a 2000 voter mandate.
Andersen, for the second year, is floating legislation that would allow small, private water companies to vote to opt out of fluoridating their water. She defines small as fewer than 5,000 connections. Holliday Water Co. currently services just under 4,000 connections
It’s not that the city’s supplier can’t provide.
Holliday Water has $250,000 worth of fluoridation equipment sitting idle. It has yet to throw the switch.
Despite the county mandate, General Manager Marlin Sundberg says he’s honoring the will of his constituents: 78 percent of the company’s 3,000 shareholders voted against fluoridation.
“There’s a desire by the people who own this private company to make their own decisions about additives to the water – rather than having an outside government entity telling them how to run their business,” he says.
In 2006, Salt Lake County sued both Holliday Water and its users association, hoping to get a court order to force the privately owned company to comply. That case is unresolved.
Public health officials – proponents of community fluoridation – are keeping an eye on Andersen’s bill and the county’s lawsuit.
“Water fluoridation has a proven record of reducing dental decay. We want to see as much of the population covered as possible,” says Royal DeLegge, environmental-health director for the Salt Lake Valley Health Department.
That’s already happening, Holliday’s Sundberg maintains.
His company’s water contains naturally occurring fluoride that equates to just over half the mandated level, he says. And, he points to the east-side city’s older population.
“Fluoridation for children’s teeth doesn’t play a great role for 80-year-old ladies,” Sundberg says.
T.J. Tsakalos, deputy district attorney for Salt Lake County, says Holliday’s fluoride fight affects more than just its 15,000 users.
“Salt Lake City Water and Holliday Water exchange water back and forth, so there are millions of gallons of water flowing monthly between the two entities,” says Tsakalos, who hopes the court says Holliday Water must “fulfill the mandate of the voters.”