MMWD has been fluoridating the drinking water since December 1973 in response to a voter-initiated ballot measure, Local Measure B, which was passed in November 1972. The measure changed the district code by requiring the district to add fluoride to all water served to customers in MMWD's service area. In 1978, another ballot measure, Local Measure D, asked whether MMWD should continue fluoridation of the district’s water supply. A majority of voters said “Yes.” In response, the district continues to fluoridate its water supply.
Can MMWD stop fluoridating? MMWD does not have the authority to override a public vote and therefore does not have the authority to stop fluoridating. California Elections Code Section 9323 requires a vote of the people to overturn a ballot measure or an initiative. The ballot measures of 1972 and 1978 cannot be repealed or amended except through a vote of the people – in other words, another ballot measure.
Subsequent state legislation on water fluoridation also has a bearing on this issue. State Assembly Bill 733, which became law in 1995, requires water systems in California that have 10,000 or more service connections to fluoridate the water. The law does exempt water systems from this requirement if they do not have funds from outside sources to pay for the costs of fluoridation. Under the statute, “outside sources” are defined as sources other than the system’s ratepayers, shareholders, local taxpayers, bondholders or any fees or charges levied by the water systems.
Annually MMWD receives about $1 million in rental income from antenna site and property leases. This income qualifies as an “outside source.” A careful review shows that even if there were a ballot measure within MMWD’s service area to overturn the 1978 fluoridation ballot measure, there is a strong argument and likelihood that the district would still be required to fluoridate the water supply because:
MMWD has more than 10,000 service connections; and
MMWD has outside income to pay the annual costs of fluoridation.
The subject of water fluoridation in MMWD's service area has been discussed at meetings of the District Operations Committee. Information from the May 17, 2013 meeting is available here:
Water fluoridation was on the agenda for the November 6, 2013 meeting of the MMWD Board of Directors. Information from the meeting is available here:
For additional information, see "Resources" and "Frequently Asked Questions" below.
Frequently Asked Questions
Q. What is fluoride?
Fluoride is the 13th most abundant element in the earth’s crust and occurs naturally in almost all surface and ground waters. In Marin, the natural fluoride concentration is about 0.1 parts per million (ppm). Seawater contains about 1.4 ppm fluoride. Fluoride also occurs naturally in many foods, including tea, grape juice, seafood and chicken.
Q. What is fluoridation?
Fluoridation is the addition of fluoride to a drinking water supply so that it contains the level recommended for optimal protection against tooth decay. Approximately 170 million people (or over two thirds of the population) in the United States are served by public water systems that are fluoridated.
Q. Why is the Marin Municipal Water District fluoridating the water supply?
The Marin Municipal Water District fluoridates its water supply because ballot measures approved by a majority of voters in 1972 and 1978 directed the District to fluoridate its water supply.
Q. How much fluoride is added to the drinking water?
The District supplements naturally occurring fluoride in your drinking water to meet the temperature-dependent optimal level recommended by the California Department of Public Health of 0.9 ppm, or about 1 drop of fluoride per 15 gallons of water, with a control range of 0.8 to 1.4 ppm.
Q. What chemical is being used?
The District uses hydrofluorosilicic acid for drinking water fluoridation. The use of this chemical to fluoridate the District’s water supply is approved, monitored and regulated by the California Department of Public Health.
The California Department of Public Health requires all drinking water additives, including fluoride, to meet the requirements of NSF 60, the nationally recognized health effects standard for chemicals used to treat drinking water. NSF 60 standards are set by NSF International, a non-profit, independent certification organization. NSF 60 was originally developed in 1988 at the request of the U.S. EPA Office of Water by an NSF-led consortium that included the American Water Works Association, the American Water Works Association Research Foundation and the Conference of State Health and Environmental Managers. Forty-seven states require that chemicals used in the treatment of potable water meet the NSF 60 standard.
Hydroflurosilicic acid, the additive we use, meets the requirements of NSF 60 and therefore is an approved fluoride compound.
Q. How much does MMWD spend to fluoridate the water?
The annual cost to fluoridate the water is approximately $140,000. These funds are included in the annual budget operating budget of $75.5 million (fiscal year 2013/14).
Q. What about the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Agency’s announcement on January 7, 2011?
On January 7, 2011, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Agency (HHS) announced a proposal recommending that water systems practicing fluoridation adjust their fluoride content to 0.7 ppm, as opposed to the previous temperature-dependent optimal level. The District has been notified by the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) that they are reviewing the HHS proposal, but has been reminded by the CDPH to continue to fluoridate in accordance with our CDPH water supply permit and state regulations. Until further notice from the CDPH, the District will continue to operate at the State required optimal level of 0.9 ppm. The District will continue to monitor for any future change in regulatory requirements related to fluoride from the CDPH.