Strathmore left out of Calgary fluoride debate

·2 min read

Despite receiving its water from Calgary through a regional system, Strathmore has been left out of discussions about reintroducing fluoride to the city’s potable water.

In 2011, Calgary water fluoridation was discontinued. But in 2019, the City of Calgary started discussions about adding fluoride to the city’s water supply once again.

A report to Calgary city council was presented on Dec. 14, 2020, stating that adding fluoride to the water supply would cost about $30 million over two decades, including about $10.1 million in capital expenses, about $1 million per year in operating and maintenance costs, and about $2 million to $4 million in upgrades over that period. The report stated an associated change in water utility rates or service levels are not anticipated, though this is not guaranteed.

During the Dec. 14 meeting, Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi said city council could respond by maintaining the status quo, considering the issue in a motion, or put the question to the people through a plebiscite during the Oct. 18, 2021 municipal election.

A decision to fluoridate Calgary’s water would affect drinking water in Strathmore, as well as Airdrie, Chestermere, Cochrane and Tsuut’ina Nation, as these communities receive water through a regional water system fed by potable water treated in Calgary. Considerations of this issue were discussed during the Town of Strathmore’s Jan. 13 committee of the whole meeting.

The town is a partner under a master servicing agreement with Calgary for the supply of potable water. This agreement states that water quality provided to each customer at the delivery point will be the same as in the city’s waterworks systems, implying that the measured concentration in Calgary would be similar in Strathmore.

Under this master servicing agreement, the city is responsible to communicate and engage with the Town of Strathmore regarding potable water quality and operational issues, said Sonya Wrigglesworth, contracts officer with the town, during the meeting.

However, the town has not been notified of the potential change, said Doug Lagore, town chief administrative officer. “We’ve had no communication from the City of Calgary on the reintroduction of fluoride,” he said.

Mayor Pat Fule said he was concerned that despite being on the Calgary Metropolitan Region Board, the subject has never been broached nor has the town been able to provide any input on the issue. “That’s kind of a little bit of a worry for me,” he said.

But the town has received inquiries from people in Calgary, seeking opposition to the change, said Lagore.

Fluoridation refers to a process by which compounds containing fluoride (a negatively charged ion of the element fluorine) are added to drinking water, based on evidence it can prevent tooth decay. But this practice has been a contentious issue, with arguments the practice has drawbacks outweighing its potential benefits to teeth.

Sean Feagan, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Strathmore Times