A bill under consideration in the Legislature to mandate the addition of fluoride to the public water supply would cost taxpayers billions, according to one opponent, but a major service provider said it’s not taking a position on the issue.
“Not only does this unfunded mandate completely strip away all local control of fluoridation, but requires local taxpayers to fund the estimated $5 billion startup cost and the annual $1 billion cost to maintain the practice,” said Paul Connett, executive director of the nonprofit Fluoride Action Network, of New York, in a press release.
A New Jersey American Water spokesman said the company, which provides water to roughly one-third of the state’s residential population through seven treatment plants and 170 public well stations, is neutral on the issue, though implementing the proposed legislation will cost more than $75 million, or a 5 percent increase in the residential water rate.
Today, the water company serves mostly Monmouth and Ocean counties with fluoride additives below the maximum contaminant level of 2 milligrams per liter, a standard that is set and also under review by federal and state regulators. Spokesman Peter Eschbach said New Jersey American Water spends several million dollars each year to test and treat its water for contaminant levels, even though on average, residents ingest only 1 percent of the water they use in a day.
Lawmakers describe the measure as an important step to promote dental health. A Senate committee approved the bill last week, while an Assembly committee did so Jan. 30.