The debate over the fate of Watsonville’s water has moved to the courtroom. On Friday, City Attorney Alan Smith filed a request for an injunction of relief with the Santa Cruz County Superior Court to determine whether the city must comply with a state order to fluoridate the city’s water.
Smith’s injunction marks a change in policy for the city, which endorsed the fluoridation of the city’s water supply up until the November 2002 election when Measure S, a voter-approved initiative, essentially blocked the substance.
In his injunction, Smith argued that fluoridation would be unlawful because findings from the Environmental Protection Agency show a “causal link between fluoride and cancer, genetic damage, and neurological impairment.”
Prior to the November election, city officials had maintained that fluoride was a safe substance and would have been a boon to the health of low-income families who lack dental care access.
The injunction request comes on the heels of the California Department of Health Services’ order for the city to overturn its voter-approved initiative or face $200 a day in fines.
At its March 25 meeting, the City Council voted 4-3 to have a judge decide whether Measure S was in compliance with a state law that requires cities with more than 10,000 hook-ups to add the substance to their municipal water supply. Council members Judy-Doering Nielsen, Dale Skillicorn and Richard de la Paz voted against the move, saying the city should back the voter initiative.
Friday’s filing seems to argue in favor of blocking the substance. Among the arguments the City Attorney presents are that the grant the city won to fluoridate the water requires the city to “comply with all applicable laws, rules, regulations, permits and local ordinances,” which include Measure S.
The document also argues that according to state law, the city can’t be forced to spend a dime of its own money on fluoridation. It states that the city would have to maintain books and records on the project, pay for potential liabilities and front all costs, all of which would require city funding.
The city attorney also argues that Measure S doesn’t explicitly ban fluoride, but merely “dictates the manner in which fluoridation shall be done.”
A case management conference is scheduled for Aug. 11. Interested parties from both sides are invited to submit their arguments.