Fluoridation triumphed, again, at this year’s legislative session.
Two bills that could have postponed, changed or halted the fluoridation process in Salt Lake and Davis counties failed. And two pieces of successful legislation allow in some instances for fluoridated water to be distributed to areas where residents did not vote to fluoridate.
“It’s an issue that’s not going to go away,” said Rep. Glenn A. Donnelson, R-North Ogden, who sponsored one fluoride-related bill that passed a House committee but never made it to the House floor. “Because it was an election year, it becomes a lose-lose situation. . . . It becomes a voting issue. (Legislators) didn’t want to take a stand on it.”
Donnelson’s bill, HB158, aimed to modify the Safe Drinking Water Act to prevent any substance from being added to public water supplies that had not been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
The only problem is that the FDA has no authority over water fluoridation, Davis County Health Department Director Lewis Garrett said at a recent Board of Health meeting.
Some legislators as well as health board members had feared that Donnelson’s bill would have undermined the will of the people by stopping fluoridation. Voters in Davis and Salt Lake counties voted in favor of fluoridating public water supplies in November 2000.
Donnelson said he was not trying to target fluoride but rather any substance that was not FDA-approved, which includes the fluoride grade that would be added to public water supplies in the coming months. He says if fluoride were safer, the FDA might approve it.
The anti-fluoridation group Citizens for Safe Drinking Water supported the bill, arguing it would protect people from drinking fluoride that contains arsenic, mercury or other substances. The group also asserted the FDA could approve fluoride.
HB309 dealt with the definitions of a functionally separate water system and also never made it to the House floor.
In order for a county the size of Davis to have a countywide vote on fluoridation, all water systems within the county must be intertwined enough that none is functionally separate. HB309 attempted to define functionally separate water systems so cities or water districts could make their own decisions on fluoridation, said Rep. Roger E. Barrus, R-Centerville, the bill’s sponsor.
The bill has been placed on a master study list to be discussed during the interim, where a definition of functionally separate could be decided in time for a bill to run in next year’s legislative session.
By that time, many, if not all, Davis County cities will have fluoride running through the taps. However, if the bill passes, residents could vote on whether to continue fluoridation, Barrus said.
The two bills that did not make it through both legislative bodies by the session’s end Wednesday night were heartily opposed by the Davis County Board of Health because board members believed they could effectively stop fluoridation.
Two other bills that passed both legislative bodies actually make the fluoridation process smoother.
State law prohibits any municipality from fluoridating the water unless residents living there have voted in favor of it. Salt Lake and Davis county residents did just that in November — but those across county lines in Weber and Utah counties did not vote on fluoridation. That has perplexed some water suppliers that serve houses in more than one county, specifically in the SunCrest development in Draper, where a number of new homes and lots straddle the Salt Lake/Utah County line.
In light of the problem, David Hogue, R-Riverton, sponsored HB43, which allows “a fluoridated water system to supply water to a resident in an adjacent municipality or county which has not approved fluoridation upon the request of a resident.” The bill passed both bodies.
The other bill that passed, HB42, provides in the case of an emergency or mechanical failure for a water company such as Weber Basin to have a waiver to provide, on a short-term basis, fluoridated water to residents across the border who didn’t vote on fluoride. Weber Basin serves both Weber and Davis county residents.
The bill gives some protection to the water company in case fluoridated water reaches the homes of those who have not voted on the issue.