Fluoride initiative drive begins
KAWADA; The News Tribune
Pierce County, WA - A group of Pierce County residents is sponsoring
an initiative and petition drive to force a public vote before water
suppliers can put fluoride in their drinking water.
The move derives from last year's decision by the Tacoma-Pierce County
Health Board to order the county's larger water purveyors to fluoridate
their water. The health board officials said fluoride in drinking
water prevents and controls the spread of tooth decay and related
"This initiative is about our rights as communities, as voters,
to make decisions," said Marianne Lincoln, a Spanaway activist
who says she is allergic to fluoride. "It is not about whether
or not fluoride is good or bad."
Meanwhile, lawsuits filed by local water suppliers against the health
board, challenging the fluoridation order, have moved up to the state
The high court is expected to decide in June whether to hear the case.
A Pierce County Superior Court judge ruled in favor of the health
board in February, supporting its broad power to regulate and supervise
public health, as defined by state law. Opponents appealed the decision.
Lincoln's group filed a "Community Choice Initiative" with
the Pierce County auditor last week. The county prosecutor's office
is drafting a ballot title for the countywide initiative.
Once the ballot title is final, the group will have 120 days to collect
27,090 signatures needed to put the measure on the ballot, said Pierce
County Auditor Pat McCarthy.
Lincoln said she has about 50 people she can count on being on the
street to collect the necessary signatures. If Lincoln's group is
successful, an election could occur sometime next year.
This is the latest challenge to the health board's fluoridation order
for water systems that serve more than 5,000 customers.
The order affects 14 water suppliers serving 238,000 people throughout
the county, including those in Lakewood, Puyallup, Sumner, Edgewood,
Bonney Lake, Milton, Steilacoom, Parkland and Spanaway.
Some water suppliers agreed to follow the order. Others didn't and
fought it in court.
After losing in Superior Court, six of the original eight plaintiffs
appealed the case: the Lakewood Water District; the City of Bonney
Lake;and four nonprofit water companies - including Fruitland Mutual
Water Co., Mountain View-Edgewood Water Co., Spanaway Water Co. and
Summit Water & Supply Co.
Parkland Light & Water Co. and a residents' group, Citizens Opposing
Fluoridation in Pierce County, dropped their lawsuits.
The Lakewood Water District skipped the Court of Appeals and appealed
straight to the state Supreme Court, citing urgency as a reason. The
high court then placed all plaintiffs before the court.
"We are asking the court to decide whose jurisdiction it is"
to fluoridate water, said Randy Black, general manager of the Lakewood
After a briefing scheduled for May 28, the court is expected to decide
whether to consider the case, said Paul Lawrence, a Seattle lawyer
representing the health board in the case.
The health department issued its order last October for water suppliers
to fluoridate their drinking water by Jan. 1, 2004. Also, the department
had told suppliers to sign contracts with the department by Jan. 2
this year, agreeing to fluoridate or face $250-a-day fines. But that
penalty has been suspended until the court case is resolved.
About 300,000 residents in Tacoma, Fircrest and the local military
bases already receive fluoridated drinking water.
Eijiro Kawada: 253-597-8633