Fluoride Action Network

Los Altos: Water fluoridation on its way?

Source: San Jose Mercury News | Daily News Staff Writer
Posted on December 14th, 2010

Though many Californians already drink fluoridated water, residents of Los Altos and other Santa Clara County cities aren’t among them.

That could change soon.

Local organizations and county officials are working to bring fluoridated water to the area, and the Los Altos City Council has scheduled a study session for tonight to hear what they have to say.

“I was very surprised that we didn’t (fluoridate). I thought everybody fluoridated their water,” Council Member Val Carpenter said. “So I really want to understand why we’re not and what it would cost to do it.”

Los Altos’s water is supplied by the California Water Service Co., which buys it from the Santa Clara Valley Water District. Neither agency fluoridates the water it delivers.

Some cities, such as Mountain View, add their own fluoride, which health experts say helps prevent tooth decay. Others receive at least part of their water supply from the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission, which fluoridates.

Agencies are required by law to fluoridate water if outside funding is available, said Ron Richardson, district manager at California Water Service Co.’s Los Altos office. Los Altos hasn’t had the money.

But the funds may eventually come from the Campbell-based Health Trust foundation, which along with the California Dental Association began discussing fluoridation with the Santa Clara Valley Water District in 2008. Health

The water district is working with Health Trust, but it is neutral about fluoridation and is not required to fluoridate, said Bruce Cabral, a water quality unit manager with the district.

“Even though we’re exempt, we recognize that fluoridation of the Santa Clara Valley would be most efficient if we were to participate also,” he said.

The water district estimates it would cost $4.5 million to $9.6 million to fluoridate its water and $837,000 per year to maintain the system. Health Trust is still waiting for an estimate from the San Jose Water Co., according to water district officials.

Health Trust then plans to lead the development of a public/private partnership to raise money for the project.

Santa Clara County Supervisor Liz Kniss has also pushed for fluoridation. In a letter she sent to the Santa Clara Valley Water District board in August, she noted that one in three children in the county enters kindergarten with tooth decay. According to the federal Centers for Disease Control, water fluoridation reduces tooth decay by 18 to 40 percent.

“It’s long past time to extend the vital oral health care benefits of fluoridation to our entire county,” Kniss wrote.

As the efforts to fluoridate the county move forward, Cabral said, there will be “significant” opportunity for public input.

“It’s a long process,” he said. “It’s not an overnight thing.”Trust says it would be more cost-effective for the water district and the San Jose Water Co. to fluoridate water regionally than for individual cities or water delivery companies to do so.