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Debate Swells In San Jose Over Fluoridated Drinking Water

SAN JOSE (KCBS) - The cliche may be that still waters run deep, but in San Jose, the topic of fluoridated water appears to run even deeper. In fact, conversations about whether to infuse fluoride into the drinking water appear to be creating some waves in the community.


The debate may boil over Tuesday evening, when the Santa Clara Valley Water District Board conducts an informational meeting about the issue at its headquarters, 5700 Almaden Expressway, San Jose. The meeting was slated to begin at 5:30 p.m., and district officials made clear no formal decision would be made. Rather, the meeting was designed to be a "public workshop" on the hot-button topic. According to the water district, there would be additional workshops over the next few months.

KCBS' Mike Colgan Reports:

Plenty of other Bay Area cities already have fluoride in their drinking water. In fact, San Francisco residents began receiving fluoridated tap water as far back as the early 1970s. Currently, San Jose is considered the biggest city in the country without fluoridated drinking water.


Roughly 125,000 North San Jose and Evergreen residents do actually receive fluoridated water from San Jose's municipal water system. But, that's a mere drop in the bucket, considering the San Jose Water Company, which is privately owned and operated, purchases non-fluoridated water from the Santa Clara Valley Water District and distributes it to 1 million residents in San Jose and neighboring communities.


Tuesday's meeting could be considered something of a shift in the tide, considering the water district has previously maintained a neutral position on the issue.


"The jury is still out. There's science on both sides. There's data on both sides showing the pros and the cons, and there's always been historical conflict on that," offered Bruce Cabral, a water district water quality manager. "Fluoridation is probably one of the most controversial issues in the water industry, it dates back to the '50s and '60s."


One of the main reasons the water district is considering fluoride now: the Santa Clara County Public Health Department is strongly advocating it.


That's not sitting well with some residents, who were expected to turn out in force Tuesday evening.


"We should be so proud that we are not fluoridated. We should rejoice because our kids have not been accumulating, you know, children retain 87% of the fluoride they ingest," declared Maureen Jones, who is a member of the grassroots group San Jose Citizens for Safe Drinking Water. "Fluoride is highly embrittling to bones and also to teeth. So you've got fracture-prone bones, fracture-prone teeth. We've been able to probably avoid a lot of that because we're the last of the Mohicans."


The San Jose Water Company recently researched costs associated with a switch to fluoridated water, estimating it would take roughly $23 million to reconfigure its equipment. Annual maintenance and operational costs were estimated at $1.7 million.


(© 2011 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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