Fluoride Action Network

Brisbane: Residents who drank water with high levels of fluoride given wrong date

Source: The Courier-Mail | May 16th, 2009 | By Patrick Lion and Peter Michael
Location: Australia

THE Bligh Government’s handling of the fluoride overdose was in disarray last night after it admitted it got the date wrong about when the bungle occurred. The Government has admitted residents should have been told they may have drunk water with 20 times the allowable amount of fluoride on May 2 – not May 1 as Premier Anna Bligh said.

The blunder is a major embarrassment for the Government, already defending the two-week delay in testing that preceded this week’s health notification to residents on Brisbane’s northside, The Courier-Mail reports.

The Premier was unavailable last night but SEQ Water Grid Manager director Nicole Davis confirmed the water entered supplies in the Brendale and Warner areas on May 2 for three hours between 9am and midday.

It means the water flowed on the Saturday morning putting many more residents at risk.

”We were trying to get the information out there to assure people,” Ms Davis said. ”The initial advice was it was May 1 but LinkWater went back today looking at their data and discovered the error that it was, in fact, May 2.

‘I do apologise on behalf of the (SEQ Water Grid) Manager that there has been confusion for the community.”

The error is set to inflame tensions further. As angry residents yesterday claimed the overdose made them sick and killed their pets, it emerged they may be unable to sue for compensation.

The Government has specifically legislated to stop lawsuits relating to fluoride.

While Ms Bligh had earlier refused to speculate on compensation for the 4000 homes exposed to the water, lawyers believe Section 94 of the Water Fluoridation Act ruled out civil suits from the public.

”A person does not have any civil right or remedy against a public potable water supplier in relation to the fluoridation of a public potable water supply under this Act,” the law reads.

The water contained 30 to 31mg/L of fluoride instead of the maximum allowable 1.5mg/L.

The Government had received no complaints yesterday but The Courier-Mail has received several reports of symptoms similar to gastroenteritis.

Warner mother-of-two Caroline Rossiter said her family, including the dog and cat, had been ill for two weeks.

“I was for fluoride but now I am very concerned,” she said. “I have headaches, chest pain, shortness of breath, gastro. We still haven’t been contacted about it.”

Robert Gow, a Bunya resident near Warner, said 10 of his budgerigars died and his cockatiel was sick. His daughter Renee lives at Warner and her budgerigar also died.

“All the birds basically got the runs with lots of watery discharge in the cage and they were dehydrated,” Mr Gow said. “There is a pretty fair chance of a connection as we are all connected to the North Pine Dam.”

But Ms Bligh said there was “almost a zero chance” of any health risk.

“We have been able to identify residents who have been affected and they will be provided with a written document today,” she said.

Speaking in Townsville, “the only city in Queensland that has had fluoridated water for decades”, she said the city was proof of the benefits of fluoridation.

“The dental health of children here is significantly better than any other part of the state,” she said.

Brisbane Veterinary Service manager Tabatha Whitehead said the northside facility had not received any cases and were unsure what affect fluoride had on animals.

“It is difficult to know if this could contribute to any illness in any household pet,” she said.