HUMBOLDT – The Humboldt Bay Municipal Water District (HBMWD) will proceed with a study on how it might eventually add fluoride to water for its seven municipal clients in Northern Humboldt.
The narrowly focused study, to be conducted by Kennedy/Jenks Consultants, considers only cost and technical issues, such as system design, construction and costs. Any decision to actually add fluoride would come later, after the two-month, $18,000 study is completed and a public hearing is held, probably in January.
Last week’s decision to approve the study was unanimous, taken during the HBMWD’s monthly meeting with Chair Bruce Rupp absent.
Though Manila chose not to pay to participate in the study, other municipalities agreed to cover the tiny community’s $200 to $300 share of its cost. A February ballot measure will determine Manilans’ interest in having fluoridated water.
Most public attendees spoke against fluoridation, citing what they said are possible dangers and legal issues surrounding the substance.
Mike Rademaker called fluoride carcinogenic, a “cumulative toxin” and said the California Environmental Protection Agency (CalEPA) has initiated studies which may eventually lead to reduction in the amount recommended for addition to water. He said adding fluoride at the presently rate of one part per million would be “foolish,” and could provide the basis of a court challenge for “legal negligence.”
Liz Finger said the substance imperils kidney patients, and that its dosage cannot be safely controlled. Daniel Pierce called fluoride “toxic poison being dumped in our water system.”
Health authorities disagreed. Laura McEwen, county oral health coordinator, noted that fluoridation is mandated under state law for water districts with over 10,000 hookups, where it is routinely implemented. “It’s not a radical notion,” she said.
Susan Buckley, county director of Maternal, Child and Adolescent Health, said the anti-fluoride arguments are “easily refuted.” She likened fluoridation to other health measures, such as wearing a motorcycle helmet, adding Folic Acid to bread or Vitamin D to milk.
Adrienne Floreen noted that most fluoridated water is used for purposes other than drinking, such as washing, and therefore “goes down the drain,” polluting the environment. She advocates establishment of a publicly accessible fluoridated water tank, where citizens who want fluoridated water could obtain it.
Ryan Lee said that fluoride is responsible for a long list of ailments, and is ineffective in fighting tooth decay. “There is no evidence that it works at all,” he asserted.
Several other attendees offered similar comments, cautioning against health dangers and legal consequences.
Board moves ahead
The HBMWD board and staff then dispelled possible misconceptions heard during public comment. Director Barbara Hecathorn said fluoridation was being considered in response to customer demand. “We didn’t initiate this,” she said.
Executive Director Carol Rische said the district would look into the matter of CalEPA’s studies. She added that regulatory agencies are “always studying” issues such as fluoride, and that it likely wouldn’t indicate any need to change direction. “If they are looking at it, it doesn’t mean that they are anything close to a [dosage] change,” Rische said.
She said fluoride is under the jurisdiction of the state Department of Health Services, which imposes stringent standards. The DHS website, dhs.ca.gov, describes fluoride as safe and effective in preventing tooth decay.
Director Aldaron Laird was hesitant to spend money on fluoride studies before Manila’s will is ascertained. “We should address that hypothetical before we spend $18,000,” he said.
Hecathorn chimed in, calling it a chicken and the egg thing.”
But Director Kaitlin Sopoci-Belknap said Manila’s hesitance was strictly financial. “Manila didn’t object to going forward with the study; they just didn’t want to pay for it,” she said.
Rische said that two member municipalities had grown impatient with delays and demanded action.
On a motion by Laird, seconded by Hecathorn, the board OK’d the study 4-0.