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Santa Maria Sun / News

The following article was posted on June 4th, 2019, in the Santa Maria Sun - Volume 20, Issue 14 [ Submit a Story ]
The following articles were printed from Santa Maria Sun [santamariasun.com] - Volume 20, Issue 14

Santa Maria residents urge city to resume water fluoridation

By Zac Ezzone

The city of Santa Maria is reconsidering its decision to discontinue the fluoridation of the city’s water supply after some residents pushed back on the move at a recent City Council meeting.

Santa Maria began fluoridating its water in 2004, but stopped last year as a cost-saving measure. According to the city’s 2018-19 budget, not fluoridating the city’s water saves about $48,000 annually. 

The budget document states that discontinuing fluoridation doesn’t affect water quality delivered to the public. However, some people who spoke at the May 21 meeting said residents are missing out on the health benefits of fluoride.

“There’s a lot of proof that it helps reduce cavities in children and adults,” Santa Maria dentist Hendrick Gonzalez said during the meeting.

Fifteen years ago, the city started adding fluoride to its water after receiving grant funding to install the necessary equipment and to cover the first 10 years of fluoridation. After 2014, the city was able to decide whether to continue fluoridating its water, according to the budget document.

At the time of receiving the grant funding, a group of residents protested the process, which culminated with a ballot measure in 2004 that would have blocked adding fluoride to the city’s water. The city was able to move forward with fluoridation after the measure failed in a tight 51 percent to 49 percent vote, according to Santa Barbara County election records.

Santa Maria dentist Glenn Prezkop, who has practiced in the city for 24 years, told the council on May 21 that working to implement fluoridation in Santa Maria was the most significant challenge of his professional career. At the meeting, he called on the city to restart the process, noting that the only public mention of eliminating fluoridation can be found in one paragraph in the city’s 336-page budget.

“We’re here to ask you to turn that back on,” Prezkop said. “It got turned off last October without hardly any notice. In fact, I think it was really slipped by, and I have good reason to say that.”

Aside from the two dentists, six other people at the meeting urged the city to restart fluoridation, including representatives from the Santa Barbara County Public Health Department and the California Department of Public Health’s Office of Oral Health.

During the public comment period, County Oral Health Program Coordinator Meredith Nasholds restated the contents of a letter the county sent the city earlier this year, urging it to resume fluoridation. 

“When a community stops fluoridating its water, local residents spend more money on decay-related dental problems,” Nasholds said. “Every $1 invested in fluoridation saves an average of $20 in unnecessary dental treatment costs.”

City Councilmember Michael Moats questioned Nasholds on what the county is doing to encourage other nearby cities to begin fluoridation. Prior to discontinuing the process, Santa Maria was the only city in the county to fluoridate its water, according to the State Water Resources Control Board.

City Council didn’t take any action on fluoridation at the meeting. Santa Maria Public Information Officer Mark van de Kamp said city staff will bring forward the issue as a budget item for City Council to consider at its meeting on June 18.




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