Riverton residents will not join the rest of the Salt Lake Valley in drinking fluoridated water until the new year under an extension approved Thursday by the Salt Lake Valley Health Department board.
The board, however, put off until November the requests made by two small water companies that want to opt out of fluoridation.
Those came on the eve of Wednesday’s fluoridation deadline set by the board, but mandated by a countywide vote in 2000.
Holliday Water Co. and White City Water Improvement District, which serve about 15,000 people each, do not want to be bound by the countywide vote.
The board readily granted Riverton’s 90-day extension. The city hired a contractor to install the equipment last month, and expects to be finished by late December.
“They’re making a good effort to move forward,” said board member JoAnn Seghini, Midvale’s mayor.
Royal DeLegge, the department’s environmental health director, said fluoride began flowing into most of the county’s water pipes Wednesday, although some systems are still taking deliveries of the chemical or are doing test flows through their water lines.
“In the next couple weeks virtually all the systems will be on line,” DeLegge said.
Even without the Riverton, Holliday and White City water systems, an estimated 95 percent of the county is getting fluoridated water, DeLegge said.
Doug Foxley, an attorney and lobbyist, told the board Thursday that the Holliday Water Co. wants an extension of the order to fluoridate until next summer so it can get legislative clarification of the statute’s intent.
State law requires a public vote before fluoride can be added to a water system, but does not specifically mention whether private, shareholder-owned water systems are controlled by a public vote.
Holliday’s board chairman, George Grover, said later that the water system will fluoridate, if required, but the older residents served by the system would rather not see their rates rise 13 percent to cover the estimated $270,000 it will cost to add fluoridation equipment.
A survey showed most served by the system do not want fluoride.
Many of the Holladay City and east-bench residents served by the system are already getting fluoridated water because about 20 percent of the system’s water flows through a Salt Lake City treatment plant that is fluoridating, Holliday Water manager Marlin Sundberg said.
White City, which is a governmental subdivision and not privately owned, is asking the board to exempt it from fluoridation because it contends it is an independent water system that does not need to buy water from another system.
If the board does not allow White City to opt out, it, too, wants an extension so the Legislature can clarify whether it intended small systems to be bound by a countywide vote.
“It is pristine water. People come from all over to fill up their jugs,” said White City board chairwoman Paulina Flint.
The water system does not want to add anything to water from its seven deep wells without first having wellhead source protection laws and an assurance it would not be liable for any accidents, she said.
White City had asked for the county to sort out the 2000 vote results so it would know whether water users there wanted fluoride.
However, because political boundaries do not follow water system boundaries, that was impossible.
“If necessary, we will seek a vote of the public,” Flint said Thursday.
Assistant county attorney Craig Anderson said the health board will have several options when it considers the Holliday and White City requests next month.
The board could grant extensions until after the legislative session, issue notices of violation or ask a judge to order the systems to fluoridate.