OGDEN — With elections coming down the pipe, people on both sides of the fluoride debate are wading into the fray.
In November, voters will decide whether the element will remain in the water supply. In preparation for that day, Utahns for Better Dental Health-Davis are distributing numbers gathered by the Davis Health Department about the costs of fluoridation. The group has other plans for billboards, lawn signs, fliers and newspaper ads.
Dave Hansen, chairman of Citizens for Safe Drinking Water, said his group is seeking to raise issues through similar measures. He said billboards will be going up at the end of this month. The group also held an anti-fluoride rally Tuesday in the Bountiful Library. Another rally is planned at the Clearfield branch Thursday at 7 p.m.
One thing Hansen would like to do is have a debate with fluoride supporters. He said that has been a problem in the past.
“If they had that much good information on fluoride, they would have no problem putting that in the light of day,” he said.
David Irvine, an attorney for the pro-fluoride group, said he’ll take up that gauntlet.
“My recommendation would be if they want to set one up, we would be happy to participate,” he said.
Both groups referred to an election in Manchester, N.H. In 1999, voters there approved adding the element to water by a slim margin. Last week, an initiative to remove it from the supply failed 37 percent to 63 percent.
“I would guess that a similar thing will be the case here. … Dogs haven’t grown five legs, and no one’s died,” Irvine said.
Hansen said he hopes for a victory but won’t take it for granted.
“We do feel like the cost will be one of the driving issues,” he said.
The costs being circulated by Better Dental Health are the same costs from a Davis Health Department report. Those final numbers say capital costs are $4.4 million, with annual operation and maintenance costs of $395,535. That comes to $4.34 per person.
Those number differ slightly from those presented by Health Director Lewis Garrett in August. In that meeting, Garrett said capital costs to put fluoride in the water are $4.3 million, with ongoing operation and maintenance costs of $611,000 each year. That would come to $4.39 per person per year.
Garrett said he prepared his report prior to Bountiful and Farmington updating their figures, which changed the final number.
Also at issue is that the health department’s numbers include unrelated improvements such as new pipes, paved access roads and new sheds, according to Beth Beck, chairwoman of the pro-fluoride group. “To say the cost of fluoride is $4.34 per person is really fallacious,” Beck said.
In January, city officials in South Weber told the Standard-Examiner that they did include the $250,000 cost of a new building in fluoride costs. Centerville officials also built a new building, but they said they included only the portion of the building used for fluoride in reported costs. Clearfield officials also told the Standard-Examiner in January that an access road was paved to accommodate heavy trucks delivering fluoride.
Figures gathered by the county don’t include the costs incurred by cities that receive their water from Weber Basin Water Conservancy. Those municipalities have been required to test fluoride levels. Garrett said that requirement will soon change.