Several weeks ago, after a Santa Cruz County Superior Court Commissioner decided Watsonville resident Nick Bulaich could not participate in the lawsuit that pits the city of Watsonville against the state Department of Health Services, Bulaich decided to take his issues over fluoridation elsewhere. Consider that done.

Last Tuesday, Bulaich’s attorney, Gary Wesley filed papers in Sacramento Superior Court, effectively bringing a lawsuit against the State Department of Health Services and Dr. David McNutt of the Santa Cruz County Health Services Agency for failure to comply with a state law regarding fluoride.

Though Bulaich has garnered local notoriety for his fight against the state’s attempt to force the city of Watsonville to fluoridate its water supply, this lawsuit has a slightly different angle.

The suit seeks to prove that the fluoridation of Watsonville’s water is unnecessary, in large part because Santa Cruz County is supposed to, and is allegedly failing to, comply with a 1995 state law that mandates public and private schools to provide topical fluoride treatments to students.

Bulaich contends that the state and county have failed to provide this opportunity.

“This is a law that has been on the book for eight years,” Bulaich said. “Doesn’t the county have to follow the law?”

California Health and Safety Code Section104830 states that “pupils of public and private elementary and secondary schools shall be provided the opportunity to receive within the school year the topical application of fluoride or other decay-inhibiting agent to the teeth in the manner approved by the department.”

Later, in Section 104840, the law states that “the county health officer of each county shall organize and operate so that treatment is made available to all persons.”

“The law is already in the books and it is far less intrusive than fluoridating an entire population’s water supply,” Bulaich said.

County officials did not return phone calls for comment.

Wesley said Monday that he welcomes any of the defense’s responses, which must be filed within 30 days of the papers being served.

“This state law offers a more comprehensive program at getting to the problem of tooth decay,” Wesley said. “This is a less intrusive program which should take precedent over the fluoridation of the city’s water supply.”

Also on Monday, Wesley took his client’s case to Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger in the form of a letter. In it, Wesley claims that little is being done to implement the 1995 law and hints that this may be due to “entrenched bureaucrats in the DHS” who may have “another plan” in “pretending to reduce the incidence of cavities.” Wesley went on to implicate in the letter that the fluoridation of other cities’ water supplies had been forced.

Bulaich, who spearheaded the passage of Measure S in November 2002, believes there is insufficient research to guarantee the safety of ingesting fluoride. Last month, he attempted to intervene on behalf of the Watsonville side of a lawsuit between the city and the state but was denied.

A hearing on the case is scheduled for Feb. 6.