HUMBOLDT – Results of initial surveying done by the Humboldt Bay Municipal Water District and the Humboldt Community Services District show majority support for fluoridation of drinking water and the water district’s board will decide whether to do a study on it next September.
The municipal customers that get water from the district are considering system-wide fluoridation. Arcata and Eureka already fluoridate, but are interested in having it done on the other side of the meter. The district’s other wholesale customers – McKinleyville, Blue Lake, Manila, Glendale/Fieldbrook and the Humboldt Community Services District – also support considering the idea, although Manila is reluctant and its CSD board has voted to put fluoridation on the November ballot for an advisory vote.
And as the water district and its municipal customers consider a $38,000 proposal from a consulting firm on a fluoridation study, results of a first round of surveying have been announced. At the Aug. 9 water district board meeting, General Manager Carol Rische said a majority of the agency’s 180 retail water customers – mostly homeowners who live beyond municipal areas – support fluoridation along with those served by the Humboldt Community Services District.
The water district got 78 survey responses from its retail customers, and 56 percent of them are in favor of adding fluoride. Thirty-six percent are opposed and the rest are undecided. Surveying done by the Humboldt CSD showed a 65 percent majority in favor of fluoridation, but the response rate was only 21 percent.
Rische related the results to last November’s ballot election in Arcata, where anti-fluoride ballot Measure W was strongly defeated. Fluoridation is likely to have majority support in all or most of the district’s communities, but some people don’t want it in their water and they argue that minority percentages represent significant numbers.
Proceeding carefully, the water district has gotten a proposal from the San Francisco-based Kennedy/Jenks consulting firm for a study on the logistics of adding fluoride – and subtracting it later, as Arcata and particularly Manila have asked for information on that.
The study would cost $38,000, an amount that would be covered by the municipalities and the district’s retail customers. Arcata’s share of the cost would be $7,172, Blue Lake would pay $939 and Manila would pay $451. The study would analyze how a fluoridation system can be added to the district’s turbidity reduction facility, looking at cost and environmental factors. Each customer’s cost share would be determined, both for the addition of fluoride and, if any one later decides against it, taking it out.
Costs of having each municipality fluoridate on their own would also be estimated. Board members decided to hold off on accepting Kennedy/Jenks’ offer until all the municipalities have a chance to review it. A decision on going ahead with the study will be made at the board’s September meeting.
Public comment was lighter at the meeting than at previous ones, but Susan Buckley of the county’s Public Health Branch reiterated her department’s support for fluoride and Maureen Lawlor, a Blue Lake resident representing St. Joseph’s Health System, said the hospital is also in favor.
Another audience member asked if he could do a PowerPoint presentation on the disadvantages of fluoride at a future meeting. The board was initially open to that, but Rische said that County Health Officer Ann Lindsay – whose support for fluoridation has been criticized by fluoride skeptics – also asked to do a presentation, and after more talking, all agreed that it’s too early to be talking about the pros and cons.
Board members said they want to get word from the municipalities on whether the study should be done before making decisions on how public comment and requests to do presentations will be handled.