BOUNTIFUL – Woods Cross residents needn’t toss out those fluoride tablets. Their water will remain free from the element for the foreseeable future.
In a somewhat surprising ruling Tuesday, 2nd District Court Judge Glen Dawson said Woods Cross could operate its water system without tapping a countywide system – known as the Weber Basin Water Conservancy District – that already has fluoride in its water.
The ruling ensures that Woods Cross’ water – now coming entirely from the city’s wells – won’t be fluoridated.
“I’m excited the court ruled in favor of Woods Cross City,” Councilman Todd Weiler said. “It’s important to respect the vote of the citizens of the community.”
Weber Basin has been supplying fluoridated water to the county’s southern half since May but before that water flowed, Woods Cross closed its connection to the district and began using the wells.
Previously, Weber Basin had provided less than 10 percent of the city’s culinary water.
Woods Cross and Davis County then went to court to have a judge decide whether the county could force the city to fluoridate its wells.
Davis County attorney Gerald Hess argued that a countywide vote, held in November 2000, in which a majority of the county’s residents elected to have fluoride, mandated that the county ensure that fluoride is in every city. Because Woods Cross used Weber Basin water when the vote occurred it should have to comply with the county’s election, Hess said.
But Michael Hayes, an outside attorney representing Woods Cross, pointed out that Woods Cross voters ÷ by a small margin ÷ had rejected fluoride in the county’s election. That city, he said, shouldn’t have to comply with the county if it voted differently. Also, Hayes argued that it shouldn’t matter whether Woods Cross used Weber Basin water when the vote occurred but whether the city was connected when fluoridated water began to flow.
Dawson sided with Hayes.
“If they are functionally separate by the time fluoride flows then they should be considered for the exception,” Dawson said.
The decision required Dawson to interpret a Utah law passed by the Legislature this year allowing a city to exempt itself from countywide fluoridation if it could show that it was functionally separate and that its residents had voted against fluoride. Besides Woods Cross, four other Davis County cities voted against fluoridation while 10 voted for it – carrying the measure through the county.
Hess said Dawson’s ruling will probably end the county’s effort to force Woods Cross to comply.
“I doubt there will be an appetite for appeal,” he said.
Under the legislation, Woods Cross will be able to use Weber Basin water in case of emergencies. However, the law doesn’t define an emergency and Mayor Jerry Larrabee hinted that several scenarios could allow the city to tap Weber Basin, including drought. The city will continue to pay Weber Basin $10,000 a year for the water it formerly used since it remains under contract with the district. Larrabee did not know how long the contract lasts.