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Fluoridation begins for San Diego County


Last updated 12/20/2007 at Noon

The fluoridation of water delivered to San Diego County has begun.

On December 3 the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California’s Skinner Treatment Plant in Temecula began delivering fluoridated water. The fluoridation will be at a concentration between 0.8 and 0.9 parts per million and will be added at the Skinner Treatment Plant.

“It’s operating, and we’re meeting all the requirements of bringing the fluoride up to an optimal level,” said Metropolitan Water District spokesperson Denis Wolcott.

In 1995 the state legislature passed a requirement that water agencies with at least 10,000 connections fluoridate water, although the State Senate added a provision to the original bill erasing the unfunded mandate and prohibiting increased rates or public funds from being used to pay for the fluoridation. That restriction delayed the implementation of fluoridation until private funding was provided.

A grant from the American Dental Foundation paid for the Metropolitan Water District’s construction of the fluoridation facilities at MWD’s five treatment plants. The operational costs will be paid by MWD and will be less than $1 per year per customer.

Natural fluoride levels in water vary but typically range between 0.1 and 0.2 parts per million. Some areas have naturally higher fluoride levels, and in one Colorado community with high fluoride levels a connection between fluoride and healthy teeth was discovered.

Several cities and states subsequently fluoridated their water supplies in an effort to improve dental health, especially the dental health of children.

Opposition to fluoridation includes concerns about adverse health effects, although residents concerned about such health effects may use bottled water in lieu of tap water.

Since most water is used for purposes other than drinking, questions have also been raised whether the most effective way to improve children’s dental health is to fluoridate bathtubs and lawns.

Wolcott estimates that between one percent and five percent of MWD’s delivered water is used for drinking. “It’s still a lot of water that we send out,” he said.

Fluoridating the water supply also generates concerns that reliance on the water system for dental health will leave behind groundwater users.

“We can only do what our system is capable of handling,” Wolcott said. “We’re not reaching everybody by any stretch of the imagination.”

The Metropolitan Water District provides water to its member agencies, including the San Diego County Water Authority. The County Water Authority in turn provides water to CWA member agencies.

Because member agencies often receive treated water from the CWA, early discussion focused on fluoridation at the CWA level. That discussion revealed that some turnouts would have greater fluoridation levels than others, and the eventual decision was to fluoridate at the MWD level.

“This would be the most cost-effective means by which to do this,” Wolcott said.

The Skinner Treatment Plant serves parts of western Riverside County as well as the San Diego County Water Authority.

MWD implemented fluoridation at its five treatment plants in phases, starting with the Mills Treatment Plant in Riverside County on October 29.

Fluoridation was subsequently provided for the Weymouth, Diemer, and Jensen treatment plants prior to the Skinner implementation.


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