The fluoride debate was effectively finished when Council considered the fluoride petition questions at the July 10 Extraordinary meeting submitted by a group of 73 petitioners in June.
Cr Kerry Child successfully moved at the July 1 Ordinary meeting that the questions be answered by staff at the planned extraordinary meeting.
Cr Child was hoping this would give Council time to apply for a referendum on the subject at the upcoming local elections but realised later in the day that a referendum was only available for questions on the number of councillors, wards and the mayoral election.
Director of Engineering Mike Edsall answered the questions in a report to the extraordinary meeting reiterating the fact that a referendum was not available.
With regard to the question of whether Council could ensure an education campaign being undertaken with NSW Health before fluoridating the water for those vulnerable to fluoride in drinking water (e.g. bottle fed infants and those with organ weaknesses) Mr Edsall said it has always been intended that consumer information will be provided to coincide with the introduction of fluoridated water supplies.
He said NSW Health says: “As far as infant formula is concerned, in Australia, all infant formula is fluoride free and there is no evidence that reconstitution with fluoridated tap water is inappropriate.
“In relation to organs, there is no evidence that implicates optimally fluoridated water as being unsafe. People with concerns can consult their medical practitioner as all chronic diseases have medical guidelines in relation to patient care. The area health service will, in consultation with Council, provide a general information program upon the introduction of fluoridated water supplies into Bellingen.”
A further question regarding the request for water filtration systems was answered by NSW Health as follows “The use of filters or alternative water sources is a personal choice and not funded by NSW Health. It would be unlikely that Council would wish to fund them either.”
Mr Edsall said “Council provides reticulated water supplies that comply with the Australian Drinking Water Guidelines. Customers who wish to change the characteristics of the water supplied do so as a matter of personal choice. There is no justification for Council to fund such choices.”
Cr Jillian Cranny said she disagreed with the information that infant formula was fluoride free
and in requesting that NSW Health provide appropriate consumer information to coincide with the introduction of fluoridated water supplies she added that NSW Health give a response to information she had regarding fluoride in infant formula from Food Standards Australia.
Cr Cranny also moved that NSW Health be asked to reconsider their position on funding filters or alternative water sources for vulnerable people.
A plebiscite (as opposed to a referendum) on the fluoride issue will not be held at the next election as the cost would be prohibitive according to General Manager Mike Colreavy who said the elections were being conducted by the Electoral Commission.
He also said a legal challenge to fluoridation would be in excess of $100,000.