Fluoride Action Network

Fluoride or Dig a Well?

Source: Deseret News | Deseret News staff writer
Posted on September 21st, 2001
Location: United States, Utah

A number of residents who didn’t have the opportunity to vote on fluoridation last fall would essentially be forced to have fluoridated water if the Legislature follows the recommendation of a legislative panel.

The Legislative Task Force on Fluoridation voted Wednesday to recommend a change in state law to allow residents who are served by Salt Lake County water companies but live on or across the border in Utah County to be able to “choose” fluoridated water.

And if they don’t want fluoridated water, they can dig their own well.

“Economically, they don’t have a choice,” said Rep. A. Lamont Tyler, R-East Millcreek and chairman of the task force. “They have to find their own water. . . . That could be impossible.”

Members of the task force acknowledged that their recommendation wouldn’t stand a chance unless the decision to use fluoridated Salt Lake County water were up to the water user.

But at the same time, they also acknowledged that it would be nearly impossible for a resident on a county border to get water any other way because of cost and limited water rights, leaving them no real choice.

With their recommendation, members of the task force, which met Wednesday at the Capitol, appear to have solved some of the biggest problems facing Salt Lake and Davis counties as they prepare to add fluoride to public water supplies.

State law prohibits any municipality from fluoridating the water unless residents living there have voted in favor of it. Salt Lake and Davis county residents did just that in Novembe but those across county lines in Weber and Utah counties did not vote on fluoridation. That has perplexed some water suppliers that serve houses in more than one county, specifically in the SunCrest development in Draper where a number of new homes and lots straddle the Salt Lake/Utah County line.

In light of the problem, the task force voted to recommend to the Legislature that the law be changed so there is a “waiver of prohibition for public water systems that provide in both counties.”

Rae Howard, president of Health Forum of Utah and a leader in the local anti-fluoride movement, said she was irate with the task force’s recommendation that the law be changed to make things easier on water companies, some of which have representatives who sit on the task force.

“I’m furious. I’m flabbergasted,” she said. “They are disenfranchising these citizens. Their attitude? ‘Go dig a well. . . . We just change the law to fit what we want to do.’ ”

The task force also voted to recommend that in the case of an emergency or mechanical failure, a water company such as Weber Basin could have a waiver to provide, on a short-term basis, fluoridated water to residents across the border who didn’t vote on fluoride.

Tage Flint, manager of Weber Basin Water Conservancy District, which serves residents in both Davis and Weber counties, said changing the law would protect the water company in the event a mishap occurs and fluoridated water meant for Davis customers spills over into Weber’s water.

“The probability’s high that we’ll have a mechanical failure at some time,” Flint said. “This strikes a chord with us closely.”