Directors of the Truckee Meadows Water Authority reaffirmed Thursday their opposition to legislation that would require them to fluoridate public drinking water.
And voters should be offered the chance to vote on the issue before, not after, fluoride is put in the water, board members said.
Washoe County voters already spoke clearly on the issue when they rejected a 2002 ballot question to fluoridate the water, said Reno Councilman Dave Aiazzi, a member of the utility board.
“I personally am in favor of fluoride. But a vote is a vote,” Aiazzi said.
Senate Bill 311 has been passed by two committees, most recently by the Senate Finance Committee on May 18.
As amended then, the bill would require TMWA to start fluoridation but would put a question on the November 2010 ballot that would allow Washoe County voters to stop fluoridation.
Utility directors voted Thursday to send a message to the Legislature that any vote taken should occur first, before the utility is forced to spend up to $5 million needed to start the process.
Complicating the already controversial issue is the likelihood that other water purveyors that buy wholesale water supplies from TMWA — Washoe County and the Sun Valley General Improvement District chief among them — could be legally required to remove fluoride, said Michael Pagni, a utility legal counsel.
SB 311 would exempt TMWA from a 1967 law which prohibits water providers from putting fluoride in water when voters have opposed the idea, Pagni said. But because the law would still apply to the county and district, wholesale water supplied to them would have to be stripped of fluoride, Pagni said.
“The cost of removing fluoride is multiple what it is to put it in,” he said.
Aiazzi said TMWA could opt to charge its wholesale customers the cost of stripping fluoride or to stop supplying them water altogether. The threat of either action, he said, could prompt those providers to join the fight against the fluoride bill as currently drafted.
He lashed out at lawmakers for exerting control over what he said should be a local issue.
“The Legislature is going out of control,” Aiazzi said.