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Watsonville stands behind fluoride vote

Watsonville stands behind fluoride vote


December 14, 2002
Sentinel staff writer

WATSONVILLE -- City voters rejected fluoridating the city’s public
water supply last month. Now, the City Council says it will stand
behind the vote, despite the fact that could prompt a showdown with
state officials.
In a letter this week to Jon Roth, executive director of the California
Dental Association Foundation, City Manager Carlos Palacios on behalf
of the council rejected the nearly $1 million grant offered by the
Fluoridation 2010 Work Group to pay for start-up fluoridation costs.
The group is a collaboration of several dental-health agencies,
including the state Department of Health Services, the Dental Health
Foundation and the California Dental Association Foundation.
“Because voters passed this measure, the council has directed me ...
to exercise its right ... to be excused from the Fluoridation
Reimbursement Agreement,” Palacios said.
Nick Bulaich, spokesman for the fluoride-opposition group Watsonville
Citizens for Safe Drinking Water, said in October that the city’s April
agreement with the task force contained a termination clause. The
contract could be nullified by either party via written notice for any of
several reasons, including a “voter approved initiative or ... ballot
Roth, after learning of the outcome of the public vote, had offered to
reduce the amount of time the city had contracted to operate and
maintain the fluoridation system after its initial installment from 10
years to one.
However, Palacios pointed out that it would seem “impractical to
spend (more than) $800,000 to install a fluoridation system that
would only be used for one year.” After that grant expired, Measure S
would prohibit the city from using local money for upkeep of a
fluoridation system.
Palacios confirmed Friday that state Department of Health officials,
after learning of the city’s decision, had vowed to send a letter to the
city reiterating its position that state law overrules local
ordinances and that the city must fluoridate regardless of a public
vote. It remains to be seen whether the state will force the issue and
levy fines if the city refuses to comply.
State Assembly Bill 733 mandates the fluoridation of water systems
that have 10,000 or more hookups when funding is provided by a
source other than the water agency or the taxpayers the water
system serves.
After all absentee ballots were tallied, Measure S passed with 50.9
percent of the vote. Though the initiative did not specifically mention
fluoride, it was aimed at preventing the city from adding that or other
chemicals to the local water supply that are not approved by the
federal Food and Drug Administration. Not included were chemicals
such as chlorine that make the water safe to drink.
The measure would outlaw the addition of fluoride because the FDA
does not regulate the chemical of fluoride to public water supplies.
Contact Karen A. Davis at kdavis (at)

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