Bega Valley Shire Council will consult with the community on a proposal to fluoridate all of the shire’s drinking water.
In a report to last week’s council meeting, the group manager of infrastructure, waste and water, Doug Mein, said that over the past 12 months council had received a number of enquiries from community members, dental practitioners and NSW Health regarding the introduction of fluoridation to areas not already treated.
Drinking water in Bega, Kalaru and Tathra is fluoridated, a decision that goes back to the days before the Bega Municipal Council was amalgamated with Imlay and Mumbulla Shire Councils to form the Bega Valley Shire Council.
There would be no capital cost to council of fluoridation as a 100 per cent capital works subsidy is now provided by the NSW Government for the design and installation of fluoridation plants.
Operating costs are expected to be around $2 per head of population per year in a major rural centre.
“The cost benefit ratio is understood to be conservatively estimated at one dollar invested in water fluoridation delivers at least $13 saving in dental costs,” Mr Mein said.
Council had five staff trained in fluoride plant operation associated with the Bega-Tathra water supply system and others would need training should fluoridation be adopted for the remainder of the shire.
Mr Mein said drinking water fluoridation was an emotive subject in some communities because while the overwhelming bulk of the Australian population supported it, some sections of the community were opposed to drinking fluoridated water.
“In NSW, the evidence base for the safety, effectiveness and equity of fluoridation remains strong,” he said.
“This is revealed in, among other things, continuous population epidemiology tracking that shows no correlation between water fluoridation and any other disease.”
He recommended that council engage in community consultation before making any decision on the matter.
The final resolution would go the Director General of Health for final approval or rejection.
Councillors resolved that staff, in consultation with NSW Health, should design a community consultation program for council consideration, noting that financial contributions from NSW Health were expected and that the community consultation program would be undertaken prior to any decision to introduce fluoridation.