FIRST SEQWater overdosed southeast Queensland’s water supply with fluoride, and now it has been discovered it is not putting enough in.
Still smarting from last week’s embarrassing revelations that up to 20 times the allowable fluoride doses had been added to the water supply to about 4000 homes, State Government authorities have now admitted that too little is coming out of the tap.
SEQWater*, the agency responsible for fluoridation, has revealed that all six water treatment plants adding fluoride to drinking supplies have failed to put enough of the chemical into the water.
The failure, blamed on a range of commissioning problems and equipment faults, potentially puts SEQWater in breach of health regulations governing fluoridation.
It is the latest mishap to have afflicted the controversial new system of distributing and supplying water around the region, after the Government’s plans to introduce purified recycled water to the drinking reserves were also shelved by Premier Anna Bligh after dam levels began rising.
Queensland Health regulations dictate that average fluoride dosages must be 0.8 milligrams a litre but SEQWater’s tests have shown that dosages for the first three months of this year have been as low as 0.04 mg/L.
SEQWater admitted to the dosage failure in a compulsory performance report it handed to Queensland Health last Friday – at the same time as it was battling the fall-out from the fluoride overdose at the North Pine treatment plant that affected about 400 homes and was not detected for two weeks.
The Bligh Government has committed $35 million to fluoridating the state’s drinking water, about $10 million of which has gone to upgrading water treatment in southeast Queensland.
A spokesman for SEQWater said the low dosages were not surprising in the first few months of fluoridation and the start-up commissioning of the treatment plants. He said the minimum levels were recorded when the treatment plant being tested was “offline”.
“From SEQWater’s perspective this is absolutely to be expected,” he said.
However, he admitted that he did not know for sure if the organisation had breached Queensland Health regulations, which stipulate that fluoride dosage should average within 0.1 of the optimum level of 0.8 mg/L.
Ms Bligh has ordered an investigation into the fluoride overdose incident.
* SEQWater: The Queensland Bulk Water Supply Authority, trading as Seqwater, began operation on 1 July 2008 as the new water service provider for the South East Queensland (SEQ) region.