Fluoride Action Network

Fluoride tab $600,000 so far in Davis County

Source: Standard Examiner | July 19th, 2002 | by Bryon Saxton
Location: United States, Utah

LAYTON — The possibility of a Nov. 5 revote overturning the fluoridation referendum could leave Weber Basin Water Conservancy District officials holding a $600,000 white elephant.

The district has already spent that much on fluoridation equipment — costs that are being passed onto area cities, district officials said, and those costs in turn are being passed onto water users.

To prevent costs from climbing any higher before the revote, the district, along with Davis County cities, are hoping to delay doing any more to fluoridate the city”s water systems until November.

For the second time in two years, Davis voters will be asked to decide whether they favor adding fluoride to their drinking water.

By a 52 to 48 percent margin, voters in November 2000 approved adding one part fluoride per million to the water systems.

The election outcome has since been successfully challenged by fluoride opponents, who collected nearly 10,000 signatures on a petition to place the referendum on the ballot for a second time.

Cities from Centerville south were to add fluoride to their drinking water by May. A court determined that Woods Cross has a functionally separate water system from Weber Basin and is exempt from the public health mandate.

Cities from Farmington north were granted a deadline extension by the county Health Department to have fluoridation in place this fall. Weber Basin officials are experiencing engineering difficulties in ensuring fluoridated drinking water in those Davis cities is kept separate from Weber County”s non-fluoridated drinking water.

But with a revote looming on the horizon, district and city officials are using every means possible to avoid a full investment in fluoridation equipment before the outcome of the revote is known.

Weber Basin Water manager Tage Flint said the district has already spent about $600,000 in engineering and equipment to provide fluoridated water for south Davis cities.

But in north Davis County, Flint said, where the district has until mid-October to implement fluoridation, they are delaying awarding a $700,000 contract to build fluoridation stations until they can meet with health officials to discuss the ramifications of the Nov. 5 revote.

“We”ve delayed the award of that contract for 30 days so that we can ask those questions of the county,” Flint said.

Davis County Health Associate Director Delane McGarvey said a meeting today with Weber Basin and the Davis Board of Health executive board will determine what will be expected of north Davis cities.

“What extension Weber Basin gets, all the cities in the north will get,” he said.

Most of the expense in implementing fluoridation in the north end of the county rests with the district, McGarvey said, so the meeting today will go a long way in determining what investment is made into fluoridation prior to the revote.

McGarvey said he does not view the extension request being made by Weber Basin Water officials as an anti-fluoridation move, but as a fiscal decision instead.

The district is not the only entity seeking waivers or deadline extensions from health officials to avoid having a closet full of unused or barely used fluoridation equipment.

“Right now we have not spent a whole lot on it,” Clearfield City Public Works director Scott Hodge said.

To date the city has spent about $5,000 on fluoridation equipment, Hodge said, with $44,000 budgeted.

Because most of the city”s fluoridation costs center on treating a city well on Hill Air Force Base property to come online in 2003, Hodge said, the city has not yet expended a lot of funds on the measure.

Hodge said it would be foolish to invest city funds into fluoridation implementation infrastructure and then have voters overturn the measure. “We”re really in a Catch-22 at this point,” he said.

Clinton City Manager Dennis Cluff said his city has only one well to treat with fluoride and that well doesn”t need to be treated for years.

The city has received a waiver from health officials on treating the well because there is no longer a demand for the well to be used because the city now has a secondary water system, he said.

As a result, Cluff said, the only expense the city faces is the $17,000 increase the city is being assessed this year by Weber Basin.

Centerville City Manager Steve Thacker said to avoid spending between $300,000 and $400,000 for equipment to fluoridate five of its seven city wells, excluding the thousands of dollars the city has spent already in engineering work in retrofitting the fluoridation equipment to the city”s water system, the city is also requesting a deadline extension from the Health Department to avoid buying equipment it may not need.

The remaining two city wells, Thacker said, are in need of rebuilding before they can be fluoridated.

Thacker said city officials in their request have advised county health leaders they did not think it was wise to force any more expenditures on cities for fluoridation until after the revote.Health officials are also expected to make a decision on Centerville City”s request today.