Adding fluoride to Hillsboro’s water system could be an expensive endeavor, especially if Hillsboro goes it alone.
Preliminary estimates put the cost around or above $1 million, said Joe Thompson, water department director. That number is so high because water enters Hillsboro’s system at nine separate locations, each of which would need a fluoride injection station, he said.
Doing it at each location would require buying property at each spot, then building nine injection stations and purchasing equipment for each station.
There are some really interesting challenges if Hillsboro fluoridates on its own, Thompson remarked.
Both sides have scientific evidence to support their claims. Stand for Children says fluoridation is a safe, inexpensive way to make sure underprivileged children get enough fluoride to keep their teeth healthy. Citizens for Safe Drinking Water counters that fluoride isn’t effective against the strongest and most common forms of tooth decay, and that it might have harmful side-effects.
The council, in response, asked city staff to look into the cost of fluoridating Hillsboro’s water. Thompson said his staff should have a report ready for the council to see in early October.
These same groups first approached Beaverton, and that city’s council placed a non-binding measure on the November ballot. If citizens say they want fluoride in their water, the council will consider it, but councilors may not go ahead with the idea.
It would be easier and cheaper to fluoridate the water at the Joint Water Commission (JWC) treatment plant south of Forest Grove. Hillsboro, Beaverton, Forest Grove and the Tualatin Valley Water District (TVWD) are the main members of the JWC, which also sells water to Cornelius, Tigard, other rural areas and the L.A. Water Cooperative.
Forest Grove and TVWD already fluoridate their water supplies. If Hillsboro and Beaverton fluoridated as well, the cost of equiping the JWC plant might not exceed $100,000, Thompson said.
However, that would force fluoridated water on the JWC’s other customers. Thompson said that raises political questions that should be answered before any decision is made. City councilors, who brought up the same question in August, agree.