City Staff Punts on Fluoridation, Offers Competing Resolutions, Leaving It To Council


After months of debate, the day of reckoning has arrived on the issue of fluoridation – but whatever council does, we will have little insight from the city staff report, which has simply provided the city council with two competing resolutions.  One of the resolutions would direct staff to pursue fluoridation of the city of Davis drinking water, while the other would declare that the city does not intend to fluoridate the city of Davis drinking water.

A few weeks ago, city staff tried to punt the issue down the road to avoid what they can only see as a collision course between opponents and proponents.  However, there was one point that both sides agreed on – the decision needed to be made sooner rather than later.

On June 27, 2013, the City of Davis Water Advisory Committee (WAC) voted to recommend that the city council add fluoride to the drinking water, after a couple of contentious meetings where both sides were able to present their viewpoints.

During the course of the WAC deliberation, information regarding the range of potential capital, operations and maintenance cost were discussed.  Staff believes that the cost to add fluoride to the city’s deep wells is estimated to be between $92,000 and $454,900 per well site. To equip all six deep wells, the total estimated cost would be between $837,000 and $2,067,400.

City staff estimates, “The capital cost to add fluoride at the Davis-Woodland Water Supply Project (DWWSP) is estimated to be $602,000. Davis’ portion of the cost would be 40%, or approximately $240,800. If Davis decides to fluoridate but Woodland does not, then the cost would be closer to 50% of the total for both, or $301,000. These numbers are preliminary engineering estimates and actual bids will be different.”

On an annual basis, the operations cost “to provide fluoride at the Water Treatment Plant is estimated to be $50,000 to $60,000 per year. Combined with the O&M cost for the deep water wells, this computes to an annual cost of $228,800 to $240,700. The cost per customer would be approximately $1.15 to $1.21 per month.”

Staff estimates that the cumulative impact on water rates resulting from fluoridation of the groundwater supplies and the pending surface water would be approximately $2.00/month/residential customer.

“The cost to add fluoride to the drinking water was not specifically included in the rate design approved by City Council on March 26, 2013 per Ordinance 2405. In the event that the Council desires that staff pursue fluoridation, staff will work to determine more exact cost estimates, and proceed with the steps necessary to incorporate the cost of fluoridation into the City’s rate structure,” staff writes.

To date, the city of Davis has not secured an “outside” funding source (i.e., a source other than city ratepayers) for all the capital improvements necessary to fluoridate the water supply.

Staff continues, “In the event that an outside funding source was available to the City, the City would be obligated by State law to fluoridate its water supply, as required by Health & Safety Code sec. 116409 et seq. and Code of California Regulations sec. 64433 et seq., which are attached as Attachments 1 and 2 to this staff report.”

They continue, “However, given that no such source is currently available, the City is not obligated to fluoridate the water supply, and the City can decline to pursue fluoridation at this time. In this case the Council can adopt the attached Resolution declaring that the City does not intend to fluoridate the City of Davis drinking water.”

Prior to September 8, city staff, perhaps sensing the need to cool down discussions, had recommended delaying the item until after the completion of the water project.

Staff stated at that time that they “feel” that “it would be appropriate to move Council consideration of whether to add fluoridation until after the DWWSP is constructed and has been operating at least a year. This will allow the Council to accurately assess the initial and ongoing cost for fluoridation that would be borne by the ratepayers.”

Staff writes, “The estimations of capital cost to add fluoride to the City’s deep wells varies greatly depending on each well site and the type of chemical that is used to achieve fluoridation.”

As staff noted at the time, “In order to evaluate the cost of adding fluoride, two sources of information were used. One was 2009 cost estimates from Sacramento County and the other was a cost estimate for two of our deep wells, completed on June 18, 2013.”

While proponents and opponents agreed on nothing substantive in early September, they agreed on moving forward with a decision on the proposal as scheduled.

“I do not agree with anything the previous speakers have said except one item, and that’s that you should go forward and consider this and make your decision now,” said Alan Pryor at Tuesday’s meeting.  Mr. Pryor has been among the more outspoken opponents of the project.

Meanwhile, Tia Will, a local obstetrician/gynecologist as well as member of the Vanguard Editorial Board, stated, “It’s nice to see that Alan and I agree on something in this matter, and that’s that I’m very strongly in favor of you sticking with the October timeline for making a decision.”

Dan Wolk has publicly supported the project – but thus far he is the only one.

In a piece that appeared in the Davis Enterprise and was co-authored by Julie Gallelo, the executive director of First 5 Yolo, and Art Pimentel, the former mayor of Woodland, Mr. Wolk and others argued, “Since the mid-20th century, community water fluoridation – the careful adjustment of naturally occurring fluoride levels in water to strengthen tooth enamel and reduce dental decay – has proved to be an effective preventative public health measure, reducing tooth decay by about 25 percent over a lifetime, per the American Dental Association.”

“Across the nation, more than 70 percent of people utilize community fluoridation, according to the Centers for Disease Control,” they write. “In California, fluoridation is mandated by state law, if funds are available. And, right next door, the citizens of West Sacramento, Vacaville and Sacramento, to name a few, enjoy the benefits of fluoridated water every day. Pediatricians in Davis prescribe fluoride drops to parents to give to their children.”

“Today, Yolo County’s public health community – dentists, pediatricians, public health officials and every major, local health care provider – is united in support of community water fluoridation in Davis and Woodland,” they continue. “These are the folks who are on the front lines of combating dental disease. They know what policies work and what do not.”

They argue, as well, that “cost should not be a reason to reject fluoridation.”

But cost is not the only factor.

Brett Lee has looked into alternative delivery methods, including the idea of mobile dental units to treat disadvantaged kids, an idea that at least two other members of the council have privately told me has merit.

There are critical questions that have emerged, not only about the cost-effectiveness of the issue, but about its efficiency.  How much are we spending for a product to be added to water that will largely return to the water supply, only to need to be removed before discharge?

How much fluoride will actually get on the teeth of those children who most need it?

We have not seen sufficient studies to suggest an answer.  We do have the comparative studies that show that, in communities with fluoridation and those without fluoridated water, the decay rates are basically the same and follow nearly identical trendlines.

Finally, there are concerns about how safe adding fluoridation to the drinking water really is.  And, while it is true that two-thirds of all communities have fluoridated drinking water, a number have recently discontinued the practice.

Barbara West put forward her own alternative, arguing that “it would benefit the dental health of low-income children in Yolo County if the money proposed to be spent on water fluoridation was instead spent on an outreach/home visiting program.”

She wrote, “The cost of hiring a few public health workers would be well under the annual recurring cost of fluoridation (approximately $228,000).”  She said she was concerned that “the costs and effort of creating administrative oversight for this program might be prohibitive,” however, she believes that “we already have such a structure in place in our county!”

“The Step by Step/Paso a Paso program of the Yolo Children’s Alliance has already done all the hard work of creating infrastructure. Since March of 2009, they have been providing home visiting services to families of young children who are facing socioeconomic challenges – a population with similar demographics to those at risk for insufficient dental care,” she writes.

She adds, “This collaboration between the Yolo County Department of Social Services, the Health Department and Yolo Family Resource Center has recently been awarded accreditation by Healthy Families America, a nationwide evidence-based program that takes a holistic view of preventing child abuse that includes helping families connect to regular medical and dental care.”

However, Julie Gallelo, Executive Director of First 5 Yolo;  Katie Villegas, Executive Director of Yolo County Children’s Alliance; and Don Saylor, Chair of First 5 Yolo and Yolo County Children’s Alliance, wrote a joint letter arguing, “Barbara West’s letter of Aug. 27 was well-intended and her concern for low-income children should be commended. However, she missed the mark on why community water fluoridation is the best strategy to improve the oral health of Davis residents.”

“The home visitation strategy she recommends as an alternative to water fluoridation would be costly and many families would not welcome a visitor into their homes on a regular basis to evaluate their child’s fluoride use,” they write.

They add, “Additionally, her solution would only focus on low income kids – a small segment of the population who would otherwise benefit from water fluoridation.”

So now the decision will be in the hands of the Davis City Council on Tuesday night.

—David M. Greenwald reporting

About The Author

David Greenwald is the founder, editor, and executive director of the Davis Vanguard. He founded the Vanguard in 2006. David Greenwald moved to Davis in 1996 to attend Graduate School at UC Davis in Political Science. He lives in South Davis with his wife Cecilia Escamilla Greenwald and three children.

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  1. brianriley429

    If there’s politcal paralysis on the issue, then I suggest we do some soul searching to try to discover where the paralysis is coming from. It won’t do any good to have healthy teeth, politically speaking, if our collective jaw is frozen shut and we can’t “eat”.

  2. Frankly

    This is telling. For city staff to punt means that they could not come up with a compelling, fact-based justification for adding fluoride to the water; but they also recognize the emotional connection some have to forcing the rest of to ingest chemicals/drugs we don’t want just to satiate their obsession dispensing social justice to a minority of mostly phantom charity cases.

    So, this is a leadership test for our council for doing the right and pragmatic things. And base on their track record, I am not encouraged. They have demonstrated that they are prone to appease those with emotional arguments while ignoring the rational arguments.

    We have a feeling council; not a thinking council.

    I hope I am wrong, but I would expect them to make another in a long string of decisions that essentially treat all like childish idiots that need their mothering and fathering to ensure we behave like the minority of elite do-gooders in this town demand.

  3. Mr.Toad

    The Council would be wise to punt as well letting the voters decide. Any other choice and half the electorate is going to be mad at you. Its not worth spending political capital on this issue Davis already has low rates of tooth decay. Maybe its from the Cr(VI) in our water our teeth are as hard as car bumpers.

  4. ebowler

    Two days ago, Columbia TN became the most recent US city to end water fluoridation.

    In July, the Supreme Court of Israel ruled that water fluoridation in that country must cease within 1 year.

    Why would the Davis City Council even want to consider such a failed and outdated program?

  5. Steve Hayes

    People are tired of top down, heavy handed governance today. Letting people have a choice concerning this matter is vital. For a classic case of “God-Clod” governance on a previous health related issue within Davis, please see below:

    Steve Hayes 10/01/12 – 12:21 PM…
    Fight the “Heavy Hand” of Censorship

    Wake up folks: the heavy hand of censorship is upon us all! Earlier this year (2012), I testified in front of the Davis City Council concerning my opposition to the “backing in” of 29 cell phone antennas (the Distributed Antenna System proposed by Crown Castle)within City limits because the proposal: (1) violated the Principles of Community within Davis by pitting neighbor against neighbor concerning antenna siting locations; (2) violated the Cities 500′ setback Ordinance; and,(3)ignored the potential negative health aspects of the electromagnetic fields (EMFs) generated by this antenna network. I was “told” that FCC Regulations forbade me and all other “No on DAS” supporters to comment on this health related issue.

    No matter how you may feel on the EMF issue, it is outrageous that our free speech was forbidden by a the dictate of this distant, heavy handed federal agency. Frankly, the City Council failed to protect the right of free speech of every citizen within the City when it “rolled over” on this issue and approved the Crown Castle DAS Project. Is this how things are going to be decided in the future?

    *For more information, please see “Crown Castle” Distributed Antenna System

  6. brianriley429

    @Steve Hayes: The idea that EMFs cause cancer is a myth. If there is such a regulation that forbids comment (which I sincerely doubt), then it is unconstitutional, for two reasons, one, the First Amendment, and two, the Tenth Amendment and the principle of “dual sovereignty.” The federal government cannot interfere with how city councils run their meetings, so I’m confident that someone gave you the wrong info, or you misnderstood what someone told you.

  7. ebowler

    the fluoride issue needs to go away completely before I will ever support the water project again


    it is most certainly not a myth that EMFs can result in many health problems

  8. Steve Hayes

    [i]brianriley42909/27/13 – 02:36 PM…
    @Steve Hayes: The idea that EMFs cause cancer is a myth. If there is such a regulation that forbids comment (which I sincerely doubt), then it is unconstitutional, for two reasons, one, the First Amendment, and two, the Tenth Amendment and the principle of “dual sovereignty.” The federal government cannot interfere with how city councils run their meetings, so I’m confident that someone gave you the wrong info, or you misnderstood what someone told you. [/i]

    Two Comments:sad:1)I mentioned “health effects” not cancer; and, (2)public comment within this arena was forbidden pursuant to the consent/advice of the City Attorney. Check the record!

  9. Frankly

    I think there are federal statutes that prevent localities from denying permits to install electrical and network service delivery based on the myth of EMFs causing health problems. There is no public accepted scientific proof that EMFs cause harm. And if there were not restrictions on the use of this argument, every nervous and NIMBY Tom, Dick and Harry would use it with wild abandon.

    The reason the local attorney forbids it is that the company proposing the project can later sue the city if they can make a case that it was rejected based on the grounds of fear over EMF harm. So, if any nutty citizens start flapping their gums at the podium making unsubstantiated claims that EMFs will harm them and UFOs will come down and do science experiments on them, the city could face unnecessary legal challenges to their denial of permits.

  10. B. Nice

    I’m stealing this line from blogger JJ Keith who used it in a piece expressing concern over the large number of people choosing not to vaccinate their children, but it seems to apply in this debate as well:

    “If someone is to be convinced of something that cannot be supported legitimately, then legitimate sources must be discredited — however clumsily.”

    This sums up my feelings on [u]most[/u] of the arguments put forth by the anti-flouride folks.

  11. brianriley429

    @Frankly: The city is an entity of the state government, and as such cannot be sued unless the government allows itself to be sued. So I very much doubt you know what you’re talking about.

  12. Frankly

    Ironically here is an example of the EMF crazies suing a city.


    In that article:
    [quote]Federal telecommunications law allows jurisdictions to consider the environmental impacts of radio waves but not health issues, so long as the emissions fall within FCC guidelines.[/quote]

  13. J.R.

    [quote]The city is an entity of the state government, and as such cannot be sued unless the government allows itself to be sued. So I very much doubt you know what you’re talking about.[/quote]

    This is a novel legal opinion to me. Are you a legal expert Brian Riley? Can you elaborate on your understanding of why cities cannot be sued?

  14. brianriley429

    @J.R., this is something every first-year law student knows. The only time you can sue a governmental entity for monetary damages is when the government allows itself to be sued. Otherwise, when a city council person uses their judgment to vote on something, that council, or city, cannot be sued.

  15. Steve Hayes

    [i]ebowler09/28/13 – 07:16 AM…@Steve Hayes, the negative health effects include cancer, especially gliomas.…r208_E.pdf[/i]

    Thank you ebowler for your posting above. The hostility toward citizens identifying/posting EMF concerns by citizens discounting EMF concerns is a perfect example of the “God-Clod” dialogue for which Davis is so famous. It is being repeated on the fluoride debate, and the DCC would be wise to avoid this issue altogether (take no position), or put it before the voters.

  16. Frankly

    Don’t be ridiculous. With all the EM waves covering all the spectrums bouncing around the entire global population. With all the people with cell phones and smart phones almost constantly at their head and their finger-tips… we would have an epidemic of health issues that could be directly attributed to EMF. We don’t. Hence the reports that there are dangers are hyped and inflated fear-based efforts by a minority of hyped and inflated fear-prone people.

    I put these people in the same boat as the 9-11 deniers.

    Fluoride is a completely different issues because it is not needed, it is not effective, it is PROVEN harmful and there are copious alternatives.

  17. medwoman


    [quote]Fluoride is a completely different issues because it is not needed, it is not effective, it is PROVEN harmful and there are copious alternatives.[/quote]

    Just a few days ago, you suggested that you would trust me to work on your ( non existent ) uterus. However,
    you have decided, based on your ideologically driven ( by your own writings) interpretation of data that is soundly rejected by dentists, doctors, virtually the entirely of the public health sector that fluoride is not effective and proven harmful. This is simply not true and yet you continue to perpetuate the myth.

    And I cannot help but notice, not one single word from you about demonstrated hazards of smoke and automobile emissions despite their proven ( not speculative ) harm.

  18. Frankly

    Medoman, with all due respect, the medical profession has a serious problem with over-medicating the population. My GP is a younger doctor and he is almost apologetic in his approach saying “I am a drug doctor… I can give you a drug for almost any ailment or just to make you feel better.”

    I think intentions are good, but there is a myopia and herd-like mentality as it related to medication.

    You are reading medical literature and so it is biased and tilted in this way.

    Other scientific literature clearly implicates fluoride in the water as being an ineffective hazard.

    How can you ignore the overwhelming numbers of other industrialized countries dropping this barbaric practice?

    The thing is, you and I could work together working to fix the problems at the root. I would support a program to improve the eating habits of children and their families. That would have tremendous greater long-term improvement impacts without risking hazards to others.

    Do no harm medwoman.

    Listen, if there were not quality alternatives to improve the dental health of children, I would probably be willing to suffer the inconvenience and hazards of fluoride in the water. But to me your dogged support of the practice is analogous to you demanding drug treatment over more natural and holistic treatments proven effective. I would prefer you be a more progressive doctor rather than just a drug doctor.

  19. ebowler

    @Steve Hayes I completely agree that the hostility expressed towards those who raise health concerns, whether about fluoride or EMFs, is really quite unfortunate, ie comparing those who cite the (growing and disturbing) scientific literature on EMFs with “9-11 deniers”. The good news is that we are seeing tremendous progress, in this country and around the world, in reducing these and other environmental toxins that are contributing to so many modern health problems. I am even optimistic that my own (medical) profession will eventually see the light and begin promoting health.

  20. Frankly

    [i]A lot of sweeping generalizations, Frankly, leading to a big non-sequitur.[/i]

    brianriley429: Do you need proof of the occurrence of patient over-medication by the medical industry?

  21. medwoman


    [quote]with all due respect, the medical profession has a serious problem with over-medicating the population[/quote]

    Actually, this comment pays me no respect at all. I do believe that I can say with all honesty that you have never been a patient in my practice. This being the case, it is inherently disrespectful to imply anything at all about my practice, or my interpretation of the medical literature.

    I doubt, having never been a patient, that you would know that my discussion with a patient in every instance except acute bacterial infection ( in which it would be malpractice not to use an antibiotic) includes a full discussion of the behavioral, non medical proven natural methods, prescription, and when relevant surgical options to deal with a problem. I invariable recommend starting with the former and working one’s way up if the more conservative methods are ineffective. My most common recommendation provided as a prescription ?
    Exercise more, eat more appropriately, stop smoking if applicable and moderate drinking if applicable.

    I take the same approach to evaluation of the literature. Could a less costly, less invasive approach achieve the same goal. But until you have read from both sides of the literature, as I did to form my opinion regarding the benefits and harms of fluoride, I would suggest that you not tell me how best to improve my practice.

  22. Frankly

    Medwoman, sounds like you are very thoughtful and considerate about medication. Too bad that does not extend to fluoride. Seriously, it does not compute that any doctor would support dumping drugs into the water system. Sorry.

  23. medwoman


    I am fairly sure that unless I had attained all your experience in business, and had read as many of the relevant business journals and reports as you have, you would probably consider my opinion as inferior to yours in this particular area. Unfortunately, you seem to consider your opinion as superior in all areas, including individual and public health. I think this is an unfortunate misperception on your part. I certainly hope that you never choose to rely on your individual interpretation of the literature instead of that of the appropriate specialist should you or a family member ever have a serious illness or need surgery.

  24. Frankly

    [b]New Research Finds Doctors are Massively Overprescribing Drugs[/b]


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