South Australian water authorities yesterday began initial survey work at the Blue Lake on a preferred site to construct the city’s controversial fluoridation plant.
This follows the State Government announcing in mid 2007 it would push ahead with the project in the state’s largest non-fluoridation centre, despite a backlash from some sectors of the Mount Gambier community.
The government’s decision to fluoridate the drinking water supply followed statistics showing tooth decay among Mount Gambier children was 70pc higher than their counterparts in Adelaide, where water had contained fluoridation since 1971.
While the issue sparked the formation of the Network Against Fluoridation – which established a website, distributed 1000 leaflets in letterboxes and circulated a petition – it is understood this group is now defunct.
The city’s dental fraternity welcomed yesterday’s announcement by SA Water – more than two years since the government declared it would move forward with the project.
Mount Gambier dentist Catherine Dunn said fluoridation would have a huge impact on the city’s dental health for years to come.
“It will absolutely make a huge difference. It will make children’s teeth stronger which is a great thing,” Dr Dunn told The Border Watch.
Dr Dunn – who practises at Hawkins Medical Centre – said she often saw children come in with cavities.
“You can look in a young person’s mouth and you know straight away if they haven’t grown up in Mount Gambier. It is that obvious,” she said.
“I had a seven-year-old boy come in recently with two massive cavities on his molars, which means there were injections and a lot of drilling. It was awful for the young boy.”
Meanwhile, SA Water chief operating officer John Ringham said temporary fencing would be installed around the site, which was located close to existing chlorine disinfection station.
“A small area of vegetation has been cleared to allow contractors to start preliminary soil testing,” Mr Ringham said.
“The contractors will take soil samples to help determine if the land is suitable to construct the fluoridation plant.”
During the survey work, he said access to the Blue Lake would not be restricted.
Mr Ringham said SA Water would construct the fluoridation plant as part of a project to fluoridate Mount Gambier’s water supply on behalf of SA Health to improve dental health.
“Fluoridation plants add carefully controlled and monitored amounts of fluoride to the water supply,” he said.
“The proposed Mount Gambier plant would add fluoride into the water supply that is pumped from the Blue Lake.”
Mr Ringham said the proposed plant was still in the early planning stages so size and costs were not yet available.
“It is anticipated residents of Mount Gambier will be receiving fluoridated water by the end of 2009,” he said.