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A year after a council vote, Calgary's fluoridation plan moves forward

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Calgary is on track to have fluoride back in its water supply by the summer of 2024, the city says, but advocates for fluoridation are questioning why it's taking so long.

A year ago, council officially voted to reintroduce fluoride into the city's water after voters were asked about the issue for a seventh time in Calgary's history. In 2021, 62 per cent of people voted in favour of fluoridation in a plebiscite during the municipal election.

"What's being lost when we don't have water fluoridation is the opportunity for children who are living today to have the benefit of this public health measure," said Juliet Guichon, a University of Calgary medical bioethicist who spearheaded the pro-fluoride effort last year. 

"Every month without (fluoridation) makes a difference," she said.

After fluoride stopped being added to the city's water supply in 2011, the infrastructure used to do so was removed. The work to do it again will take nearly three years from the time of the plebiscite.

"It's perplexing that it would take two and a half years with that knowledge already in hand to reinstate this public health measure," Guichon said.

New equipment will be installed and the same fluoride compound that was used in Calgary prior to 2011 is being sourced for when the two water treatment plants are ready for fluoridation again.

"I understand that we spent the past year doing the engineering work and we're going to spend the next year doing the capital work of actually installing the fluoride injection system at the water plants," said Coun. Richard Pootmans, the Ward 6 representative.

It'll cost just over $10 million to upgrade the treatment plants with a price tag  for fluoridation coming in at over $30 million over 20 years. The city maintains those costs won't result in water bills increasing.

"Utility services, including fluoridation capital, operating and maintenance costs, are completely self-funded through water rates and service charges and are included in the Water Utility budget. There is no support from property taxes," reads a statement from a city spokesperson.

Calgary will join Lethbridge, Edmonton and Red Deer as Alberta cities with fluoridation.

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