More than five years after Salt Lake County voters approved fluoride for public drinking systems, an east-bench water company continues to hold out.
Now, after granting a series of extensions for Holliday Water Co., county health officials are threatening to sink their teeth into the renegade group with a civil lawsuit.
Moments after a closed session meeting last week, the Salt Lake Valley Health Department board adopted a resolution calling on the district attorney to file action forcing the company to comply.
“Holliday Water’s decision not to fluoridate leaves the board with no other option than to request the county to take appropriate legal action to protect public health,” states a letter from the health board to County Mayor Peter Corroon.
“For some reason Holliday feels they are exempt from this,” County Councilman David Wilde, a member of the health board, said Monday. “We thought we had an agreement.”
Paul Ashton, an attorney representing Holliday Water and its 14,000 or so users, argues an old agreement with Salt Lake City stipulates that Holliday owns 100 percent of its water and should be functionally exempt.
“They think everyone was swept in by that [November 2000] countywide vote,” he said. “We respectfully disagree.”
Ashton notes 72 percent of Holliday’s shareholders have since voted against adding fluoride to the system.
“They have never been willing to accept that Holliday Water users should be able to decide for themselves,”
Ashton added. “It would be a shame to use taxpayer funds to chase a small company, but that’s not my call.”
On Oct. 3, 2002, the health board adopted Health Regulation No. 33 requiring regulated drinking water systems to fluoridate by Oct. 1, 2003. Due to cost concerns, Holliday was granted an exemption. Then, in a March 2004 special meeting, the water company was told its treatment system must be operational by the fall of 2005.
In its resolution, the health board cites the American Dental Association, American Medical Association, Food and Drug Administration and U.S. Public Health Service as organizations that recognize fluoride in helping prevent tooth decay.
In January 2001, the County Council adopted a resolution declaring fluoridation of public water supplies is binding law.
Still, Ashton insists Holliday shareholders should be the ones who decide.
“We disagree with some of the factual background.”