Water discussions continue flowing at city

Fluoridation, status updates, and county approval were all on tap at a recent meeting.

The King County Council approved the city of Issaquah’s 2018 Water System Update at its Oct. 2 meeting. Issaquah is proceeding with the initial steps of that plan, which includes a water treatment plant that would provide fluoridated water to all city customers.

The city council is still considering whether to fluoridate its water, a question that was deliberated during an Aug. 12 work session, which prompted the request for an expert speaker to provide information on fluoridation safety and current public health policy. Previously, some citizens had raised concerns about fluoridation.

A presentation from a public health expert was scheduled for Sept. 24, but that meeting was canceled. City staff is working to someone from the state Department of Health to present.

Sheldon Lynne, city public works engineering director, gave a brief overview of the plan update, which was approved by the city council in February 2019.

He said the plan identifies the need for a centralized water treatment plant for multiple reasons.

“Some of the major reasons are operational efficiencies and effectiveness in the long term for the utility,” he said.

He said the public works operations department is currently managing four different wells at four different locations that each have different water qualities. By centralizing the source, they could treat all the well water at one place at the same time.

He also said growth projections show water demand in the valley floor area will exceed the capacity of wells. So the department plants to bring in water from Cascade Water Alliance, which gets its water from Seattle Public Utilities.

Cascade water is fluoridated, so the treatment plant would treat the well water to be consistent with regional water quality protocols. Some city residents already receive fluoridated water from Sammamish Plateau Water.

“The council has not yet considered or approved the treatment plant construction project, or allocated funds, or adopted rates to cover the costs,” said Autumn Monahan, assistant to the city administrator.

King County approval is standard for city council approved plans. A letter from King County Executive Dow Constantine said, “this plan supports the economic growth and built environment goals of the King County Strategic Plan by helping to ensure an adequate supply of clean drinking water for county residents.”

Lynne also explained the current status of the project.

“Where we are today is we’re providing information to the city council about fluoride. But we’re also in our very early design phases of the treatment plant,” Lynne said. “We are in the first steps of analyzing the operations of the utility to narrow down a potential location for the treatment plant so that it works the best within the utility. Once that’s done then we’ll have to have conversations with the city council about the land purchases if needed, and we would just continue moving forward.”

Monahan said the plan would put Issaquah water at regular, recommended standards.

“All Issaquah Water customers would receive fluoridated water and that follows the lead of regional water providers and public health agency recommendations as well as best practices for water treatment,” she said.

The council also asked for analysis for including flexibility in the design of the treatment plant for potential changes in the future. For example, if regional water standards change and regional water is no longer fluoridated, Monahan said.

Information regarding fluoridation as well as the water system update plan can be found at the city’s website (https://www.issaquahwa.gov/).

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