FARMINGTON — After years of back-and-forth finger pointing, a study by health officials reveals the actual cost of adding fluoride to the county’s drinking water is more than twice than what was projected.

The cost to implement fluoridation into public water systems and wells is $4.39 per person, based on figures provided by Davis cities, said County Health Director Lewis Garrett.

Based on cost figures provided, Garrett said the total cost to Davis cities to design and implement the fluoridation system was $4.3 million, with an additional $611,000 to be spent yearly for operations and maintenance.

Original projections provided by health board members in 2000 were closer to $1.38 to $2 per person. That year, voters approved fluoridation 52 to 48 percent.

“The cost numbers that were flying around out there were projections,” said Garrett, who was not a member of the health board when the initial cost estimates were released.

But even though the cost figures provided by Davis cities show a large disparity between health board cost projections and the actual expense of getting the measure up and running, Garrett defends the former board members.

He said it was not the responsibility of the health board to monitor the cost, and even at the higher cost of $4.39 per person per year, fluoridation remains a cost-efficient public health tool to combat tooth decay.

In January of this year, Standard-Examiner research showed fluoride costs almost on par with Garrett’s announcement this week. While the total costs were nearly the same from both reports, the per person costs the Standard-Examiner reported were lower because of differing amortization.

Garrett said the cost information Davis cities provided to the health board could be reduced if the equipment they purchased lasts 10 years rather than the projected seven years.

County Clerk/Auditor Steve Rawlings said the figures from the recent cost study “very much support” the financial summary he reported in the voter information pamphlet issued prior to the 2000 election.

Rawlings said that financial summary, which contradicted the cost projections provided by health board members, was published then at the demand of four Davis cities.

“That was my attempt to disclose what the cities were telling me then needed to be included,” he said.

Rawlings said he was made aware of the results of the fluoridation cost study in a recent meeting with Garrett.

Layton officials also expressed concern with the high cost of implementing fluoridation, including at one time considering challenging the measure based on the low cost estimates.

“We told them their numbers were unrealistic,” said Mayor Jerry Stevenson of the original lower figures released.

Stevenson said he believes the public got sold a bill of goods because pro-fluoride advocates didn’t share with them what the cost would be to implement the measure.

“It just wasn’t done truthfully,” he said.

Stevenson said it would be less expensive for his city to provide fluoride tablets annually to each household wanting them.