New fluoride fracas at Olivehurst Public Utility District
WHO: Olivehurst Public Utility District.
WHAT: Reconsideration of action to not put fluoride in drinking water.
WHERE: District business office, 1970 Ninth Ave.
WHEN: 7 p.m. today.
Fluoride will again be considered by Olivehurst Public Utility District directors tonight.
"I don't think the last card's going to be played at (tonight's) meeting," said District Manager Tim Shaw. "No matter the outcome, the other side will attempt to move it the other way."
The directors will take up a request by the First 5 Yuba Commission to reconsider last month's 3-2 vote to discontinue the use of fluoride.
That vote came after the board about a year ago voted, again 3-2, to keep the cavity-fighting chemical compound in drinking water.
Fluoride in drinking water has been a flash point for years throughout the country. Supporters — mainly the American Dental Association — have lauded fluoride's benefits in preventing tooth decay, while critics point to studies maintaining excess amounts of the compound can cause bone disease.
Now, the issue is before Olivehurst directors again thanks to First 5, which acts as a clearinghouse for state funds designed to promote children's health. The commission four years ago gave the district $113,500 in grants to begin fluoridation.
Olivehurst district board President Jeff Phinney said Wednesday he does not know what the outcome will be this evening. But he agreed with Shaw that it may not be over tonight.
"It probably won't be," Phinney said. "But I don't know what the next steps will be."
Phinney was joined by Dennise Burbank and Gary Bradford in voting last month to discontinue the use of fluoride, while Ron Dougherty and James Carpenter voted to keep it.
Dealing with the issue has been frustrating, Phinney said, because it has been a distraction from other board business.
"This is taking away from a lot of other issues," said Phinney, citing needed improvements to the community swimming pool as an example. "It's taking away from what we really need to be doing right now."
Shaw said he has received several fluoride-related phone calls following last month's meeting — many from health organizations and others from residents. The bulk of the calls were "pro-fluoride," he said.
The Olivehurst district provides drinking water for about 6,500 customers, or about 19,000 people, roughly split between Olivehurst and Plumas Lake.
Only a few local systems fluoridate
Despite the contention by the California Dental Association that fluoride is beneficial in fighting tooth decay — especially in children — most municipal water systems in the Mid-Valley don't use it.
Only Yuba City, Beale Air Force Base and Gridley place fluoride in drinking water. Olivehurst Public Utility District has been putting fluoride in water for about four years, but is scheduled to stop after a vote last month to discontinue it.
The issue has never come up in a public way in recent decades in Marysville, Live Oak or Wheatland nor for any other public water systems.
Lee Seidel, manager of California Water Service, which operates the water system for Marysville, said his company takes its lead on fluoride from the communities it serves.
"We get periodic questions about whether or not we fluordidate and if we should," Seidel said. "As a company we take a neutral stance. If a community wants it, we are fine with putting it in. If they don't, we don't."
Seidel said it would likely be more costly to place fluoride in Marysville's water system, which uses several wells in the city to draw groundwater.
"When you have multiple wells spread throughout the town, we would have to fluoridate each well site to get distribution," he said.
Yuba City, at the urging of local dentists, approved adding fluoride in drinking water in 1998, though not without some controversy. The City Council voted unanimously at the time to approve the use of fluoride despite opposition primarily from San Jose-based Safe Water Coalition Inc.
In August 2011, the issue resurfaced in Yuba City when a resident presented the council with 100 pages of material raising questions about fluoridation. He told the members the practice can cause the health problems it's supposed to prevent.
But a local dentist who supported the use of fluoride when the city initially approved it, said that after a dozen years, he had seen less tooth decay in his office.
Gridley introduced fluoride in the 1950s.
CONTACT Eric Vodden at 749-4769 or firstname.lastname@example.org.