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Davis water users find ways to avoid fluoride

Some install systems to remove compound

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Fluoridation foes in Davis County are finding ways to "defluoridate" — installing systems that remove the compound from their drinking water.

Since April, when Davis County cities began delivering fluoridated water to residents, area plumbing businesses have been busy with calls from folks wanting to know how to get rid of the stuff.

Culligan, a national water conditioning company, even targeted certain ZIP codes in the county with 5-by-8 inch postal cards in the past week advertising that its "reverse osmosis" system can remove fluoride from the water.

Culligan salesman Peter Hart said so far the company's sales of RO units are up about 30 percent since the mailing. "We've been very busy. It's been good."

Residents can cash in on a "summer" offer for $9.95 for the first three months with Culligan's offer. Most systems offered by competitors are priced at several hundred dollars.

Marv Hill, service manager for Shamrock Plumbing in North Salt Lake, said his company has received a lot of calls from people wanting to take the fluoride out of their water and the company has been selling about 10 reverse osmosis units a month.

"I have an RO unit at home just because I want to make sure my water is clean. I want to know what's in it," he said.

Although up and running, per se, fluoridated water in Davis County has been a constant controversy, opposed by many who aren't sold on its dental benefits and assert it is harmful.

Still others disagree with the notion the government is "force medicating" residents against their will.

A slight majority of Davis County residents, however, voted in 2000 to put fluoride in the water. That vote may be revisited in next year's election, however, because of a law passed in the recent legislative session that allows a vote on the issue every four years. Salt Lake County plans to join its neighbor to the north by putting fluoride in its county water by Oct. 1.

For now, people are simply living with the stuff — or turning to the expensive systems to have it removed.

There has been interest on the part of some cities to do what they can for their residents who are anti-fluoride.

In Bountiful, officials are considering having non-fluoridated well water available to the public, although no timeline has been set.

City Manager Tom Hardy said the city has an existing well near Tolman Elementary School that is not being used but could be put into operation. "We could have an unfluoridated source of water for those who want it, and it wouldn't cost a lot of money," he said.

In Salt Lake City, a flowing artesian well has been used for decades by people wanting untreated water.

The Davis County Health Department, which supported fluoridating the water, didn't have much to say about the rush for the reverse osmosis systems.

What could they say?

"People can do whatever they want to do," said spokesman Bob Ballew. "In whatever terms they want to purify, they can do that. But it doesn't change what is happening with the minute amount of fluoride that goes in initially."

Dave Wilding, manager of the Bountiful water department, said he's upfront with residents who inquire about fluoride-removing systems. The cost tends to douse the desire to have one installed.

"I tell them there are home units available that can do it, but if all they want is non-fluoridated drinking water, it's probably cheaper to buy bottled water."

E-mail: lweist@desnews.com