Although discussion is preliminary, Los Altos could begin fluoridating its water supply, provided city officials resolve funding, engineering and logistics issues.

According to city officials, it could cost several million dollars to do so – an amount that needs to come from outside sources.

“This is the first time the issue’s come up in Los Altos,” according to Jim Gustafson, the city’s engineering services manager.

Approximately 11,000 residents since 1931 have received their water from California Water Service Company, which buys it from the Santa Clara Valley Water District. Neither agency fluoridates the water.

Although water district officials have considered fluoridation for two years, Councilwoman Val Carpenter said she was “surprised at the fact that our water is not fluoridated” and wanted to learn more about the process.

Upon a request from the Los Altos City Council, Cal Water officials last month presented councilmembers a project scenario for fluoridating the city’s water that included information and estimated costs.

Fluoride – a naturally occurring element found in rocks, soil and fresh and ocean water – has been proven to prevent tooth decay.

It would take several million dollars” to fluoridate the Los Altos water supply, he said. Despite huge costs, issues relating to environmental and space impacts due to equipment installation, engineering challenges associated with multiple connection points of source water and ongoing maintenance would also need to be resolved, he added.

California AB 733 requires agencies with at least 10,000 service connections to fluoridate their public water supply to individual cities provided outside funding is available, according to Sam Silva, water quality project manager for Cal Water in Los Altos.

Still, opposition says adding fluoride to water supplies has been known to cause cancer and bone fractures.

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