Fluoride may not be added to Skagit County’s water supply after all.
A two-month deadline extension for fluoridating the Skagit PUD’s water supply apparently isn’t really about giving the utility district time to set up a system. It seems that it’s more about changing the plan altogether.
Two of the county’s three commissioners confirmed Tuesday that they may rescind the May 2007 order to fluoridate the water supply. One of those is the newest commissioner, Ron Wesen, who isn’t as thrilled with fluoridation as his predecessor.
Skagit Public Utility District No. 1 received a two-month extension Tuesday on its deadline to fluoridate the water supply, even though the PUD didn’t ask for more time.
Commissioner Sharon Dillon said that the deadline was extended for the benefit of the new commissioner who took the place of Don Munks.
“With a new commissioner on board, he needs to get up to speed on the issues,” she said of Wesen.
That new commissioner could also shift the balance on the three-member board. Dillon was the only commissioner to oppose fluoridation in 2007, and she did not dispute Tuesday that the commissioners might rescind the fluoride order.
“There is always that possibility out there,” Dillon said.
Wesen made it clear Tuesday that it’s more than a slight possibility.
Reached by phone Tuesday night, Wesen said that as an organic dairy farmer, he thinks individual residents should be able to choose to have fluoride in the water.
“Some of them really do not want it in the water, and there’s not an easy way to get it out once it’s put in,” he said.
Wesen said if the board finds that it is able to rescind the May 2007 decision that he would support it.
“That’s what we’re going to look at in the next 60 days,” Wesen said.
Dillon voted alone in May 2007 against ordering the PUD to fluoridate the water, but she was outnumbered by Munks and Commissioner Ken Dahlstedt, who gave the PUD 12 months to implement the system. The vote was taken after a nonbinding referendum that found 52 percent of Skagit County voters in favor of fluoridation.
The commissioners’ deadline, however, was extended after the county prosecutor sent a question to the state attorney general about the commissioners’ ability to force the issue. The attorney general said the commissioners, who also serve as the county Board of Health, did indeed have that authority.
But with the deadline for implementation set to expire Thursday, the commissioners voted unanimously to extend it again — this time for 60 days.
General Manager Dave Johnson said the PUD did not request the extension, but maintained his stance that fluoridation has been forced on the utility district.
“Our view from the beginning is that it is an unfunded mandate that has been imposed on the PUD,” Johnson said. “It puts us in the middle ground that is a no-win situation.”
Johnson said the PUD is working with Black & Veach, a utility engineering company, to design the fluoridation facilities at the PUD’s Judy Reservoir Treatment Plant and its east and west bank interties.
The Washington Dental Service Foundation offered to pay capital costs estimated at $1.2 million for the fluoridation system.
Johnson said the PUD would not have the system completed by the March 15 deadline. He added that the system might not be complete within a year because it must go through several public permit processes that would likely face opposition from residents against fluoridating the water.
Staff Writer Elliott Wilson contributed to this report.