The public needs to be informed about the Santa Clara Valley Water District project to fluoridate drinking water. There are many reasons people who will be affected need to know more about this project.

In November, 2011, the Water District Board of Directors approved a policy to “Provide fluoridated drinking water at the district’s three water treatment plants and the Campbell well field, provided that external funding is obtained for the capital, and operation and maintenance costs of the fluoridation systems.”

In April 2013, the Water District Board ignored their own policy when they approved a funding agreement with the Health Trust ($1.9 million) and the California Dental Association Foundation ($500,000) to cover $2.4 million of the estimated $6.6 million planning, design and construction costs. According to the agreement, the district would implement a treated water surcharge (estimated increase of 38 cents a month for a household of five) to cover ongoing operation and maintenance once fluoridation of the water supply is initiated.

Now the latest documents show the $4.2 million funding gap for planning, design and construction will come from the water utility enterprise fund (i.e. also from ratepayers).

When they made their decision in April, board members requested more information about the following: fluorosilicic acid use and costs; a statement conveying that the district would be looking for opportunities for future cost sharing of fluoridation operation and maintenance costs; and a study of public education systems used to educate the public on fluoridated water. No public responses were provided to these requests. Because of the costs and risks involved with drinking water fluoridation, the public deserves answers and public discussion about this information.

Since April the Water District has kept quiet on fluoridation. The 2014 budget allocated $347,000 to the project and the initial 2015 budget allocates $855,000. In October, 2013, the district filed a notice of exemption from environmental review. This was done without board discussion. The public will not find the notice or any other documents about the project on the Water District’s fluoridation web page, last updated in April.

The Sierra Club Loma Prieta Chapter has requested more public outreach and better planning for the project as follows:

  • Provide more details about the project such as information about the amount of fluorosilicic acid to be stored and transported; landslide and earthquake risks at the storage sites; and how the fluorosilicic acid will be certified to be free of arsenic, lead and other toxins that are present when it is collected during fertilizer production.
  • Plan how the district will do outreach to at-risk populations, particularly infants and kidney patients, who cannot tolerate fluoridated water (an outreach plan).
  • Plan how the district will respond if there is a spill of this highly toxic material (a hazard mitigation plan).
  • Define measurable objectives and criteria of success to assess the effectiveness of the project and work with partners such as the Health Trust, the county Department of Public Health and the masters of public health program at San Jose State University to do a comprehensive study of the impacts of fluoridation on dental health in the context of the diverse demographics of the County.

In the past two years, cities, states and counties have decided to stop or reduce fluoridation. Given this trend in the opposite direction, the people of Santa Clara County deserve to know that fluoridation is done safely and that ratepayer funds are wisely spent on a project that provides measurable positive outcomes.

Katja Irwin is the Water Committee chair for the Loma Prieta chapter of the Sierra Club. She wrote this article for this newspaper.