Fluoride costs unknown

News staff writer

May 4

The costs of fluoridating Hood River’s water supply have not yet been tabulated.

City Manager Bob Francis said staffers are now gathering data that will be available to the public in July. The city intends to get the word out to voters before the “should we fluoridate or should we not” question appears on the November ballot. In fact, the city has posted a Web site, www.hoodriverfactcheck.org, as another vehicle to get informational outreach to its constituency.

In December 2004 the city council decided to ask citizens to put a neutral measure on the November general election ballot. They also agreed to launch an education campaign to provide citizens with facts about the costs for installation and maintenance of a fluoridation operation.

Francis does not anticipate that the expenses for standard fluoridation, if approved, will be as high as previously thought. However, he said the costs could also be significantly higher if Measure 14-23 passes on May 17 and only “pure” fluoride is deemed acceptable. The measure prohibits any fluoride that is a by-product of industrial waste and doesn’t meet the Environmental Protection Agency’s Maximum Level Contaminant Goals.

“If people vote for fluoride it doesn’t necessarily mean that water rates will go up,” Francis said.

In 2002, the city estimated it would cost about $105,000 for a combination chloride/fluoride building, $535 a month for supplies and $1,000 for monthly maintenance. In addition, the city expected to incur extra labor costs of about $27,000 annually to monitor the additive program.

Francis said these figures included some equipment that was not necessary. For example, he said an expensive full HAZMAT protective suit is not used in cities like The Dalles, which requires workers to wear heavy rubber gloves and a respirator. He also said if the plant is built within the next five years, during replacement of the aging water main, the construction expenses for the fluoridation plant should also go down.

“There are a lot of unknowns on the costs right now. We will have a clearer direction for the answers after the vote on 14-23,” said Francis.

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