Metropolitan board adopts policy to fluoridate imported drinking water

Drinking water supplies for up to 18 million Southern Californians will be fluoridated after Metropolitan Water District's board of directors adopted a policy that calls for the cavity-fighting agent to be added to its treatment processes.

LOS ANGELES, Feb. 12, 2003 -- Drinking water supplies for up to 18 million Southern Californians will be fluoridated after Metropolitan Water District's board of directors on Tuesday adopted a policy that calls for the cavity-fighting agent to be added to its treatment processes.

"At a cost of less than a dollar a family, the dental and medical health communities believe fluoridation offers Southern California consumers an additional level of public health protection," said Ronald R. Gastelum, Metropolitan's chief executive officer.

Gastelum noted that the American Dental Association estimates that every dollar spent on fluoridation saves about $80 in dental health care costs.

"In the end, adding fluoridation at our five treatment plants represents the greatest cost benefits for our 26 member public agencies and the people they serve," Gastelum said.

Metropolitan estimates it will take about 30 months to supplement the trace amounts of naturally occurring fluoride in the district's imported source waters from the Colorado River and Northern California to levels promoted by the American Dental Association and national public health interests.

Gastelum, however, cautioned that actual fluoride levels consumers realize at the tap will depend on how much their retail agencies blend Metropolitan deliveries with local supplies.

Metropolitan is in discussions with dental health organizations about covering the district's initial $5 million in capital costs for fluoridation, Gastelum said. The California Dental Association Foundation, a non-profit public benefit corporation, in cooperation with a statewide fluoridation task force, has offered Metropolitan to pay for construction and installation of fluoridation equipment at the district's treatment plants.

Metropolitan's board has been examining fluoridation since Gov. Pete Wilson in October 1995 signed a state law that conditionally mandates fluoridation of any public water supply that has at least 10,000 service connections or customers. Although Metropolitan was exempt from conditions of the law, local public health officials continued to push for large-scale fluoridation to be applied and maximize the financial and medical benefits of treating municipal water supplies.

Most recently, seven public health officials representing the six Southern California counties in MWD's service area urged the Metropolitan board at its December 2001 meeting to have the district consider fluoridating its supplies. The health officials testified that adding fluoridation at Metropolitan's treatment plants was the most cost-effective method to provide fluoridation regionally.

The Metropolitan Water District of Southern California is a cooperative of 26 cities and water agencies serving 18 million people in six counties. The district imports water from the Colorado River and Northern California to supplement local supplies, and helps its members to develop increased water conservation, recycling, storage, and other water-management programs.

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