Calgary officials say the cost of reintroducing fluoride into the city’s water system has nearly tripled due to inflation and the need for infrastructure upgrades outside the initial scope of the project.
Fluoride was in Calgary’s drinking water from 1991 to 2011. Since then, Calgarians have voted in multiple plebiscites on fluoridation, most recently in November 2021. Fluoridation was initially expected to be implemented within the system by June 2024, however, the realization that current infrastructure can’t be retrofitted for the fluoridation equipment means an estimated three-month delay for the project’s timeline, according to a memo from City Administration.
“Schedules are subject to change with strong consideration of the ongoing global supply chain uncertainty, which we are proactively trying to manage,” the city memo states.
The initial cost of the fluoride reintroduction project was pegged at $10.1 million, but is now estimated to be $28.1 million. The bulk of the new price tag can be attributed to the need for a new building at the Bearspaw Aayer Treatment Plant.
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“The new building will house the fluoride equipment and provide a safe workspace for city operational personnel,” the memo states.
At the Glenmore Water Treatment Plant, installing the newly required fluoride equipment in one of the existing buildings on-site is possible; however, the Bearspaw Water Treatment Plant will also require upgrades, the memo states.
City officials noted they can accommodate the additional costs in the current capital budget without requesting additional funding or rate increases.
In addition to the expanded project scope, costs have soared due to “inflationary impacts on equipment, labor costs, and delivery risk, a trend that has been seen across other municipal capital projects this year,” the memo says.
As part of the 2021 general election, nearly 62% of electors voted in favour of reintroducing fluoridation to the municipal water supply.
Fluoride naturally occurs in the Bow and Elbow Rivers, in concentrations varying throughout the year, between 0.1 and 0.4 mg/L.