The revelation that some Brisbane residents were inadvertently exposed to excessive levels of FLUORIDE in their drinking water earlier this month will do little to enhance the case for adding fluoride to public water systems.
The concern raised has been further exacerbated by the fact that it apparently took as long as 12 days to identify the problem and it seems the government was not notified until this week that 300,000 litres of contaminated water were pumped into as many as 4,000 Brisbane homes on the 1st of May.
Though the Queensland Government says a full investigation is underway public confidence in is bound to be eroded with the news that some residents at Brendale and Warner, north of Brisbane, were drinking water for a period of three hours earlier this month with a fluoride concentration 20 times higher than the recommended maximum limit.
The investigation will also focus on why at least three safety devices failed at the plant – the problem occurred when fluoride continued to mix into water when the treatment plant was shut down for routine maintenance late last month and when the plant resumed operations on May 1, the overdosed water discharged into household supplies between 9am and 12 noon.
The Queensland Opposition says that it took nearly two weeks for the Government to find out about an excessive release of fluoride into public drinking water supplies and tell the public, which is not good enough and brings into question the management of the system.
Opposition Leader John Paul Langbroek says the Government cannot afford to make mistakes on the purity of drinking water and the Government should be reassuring Queenslanders that all the procedures in place and that fail-safe mechanisms are working properly.
The Opposition Leader who is himself a dentist, and in favour of fluoridation, says the public were told the processes would be safe.
SEQWater as a rule receives routine test results on the same day but it appears LinkWater the bulk supplier failed to test the water before its release after the shutdown but tested it 12 days later – LinkWater received the test results back on Tuesday and SEQ Water was told on Wednesday and the Queensland Premier Anna Bligh was told later that evening.
Queensland Health chief health officer Dr Jeannette Young says there had been no complaints of gastroenteritis, which would have produced diarrhoea and vomiting within 24 hours and for there to be a health risk the levels would have to be much higher and for much longer than three hours.
The plant has been switched off since the findings – Anna Bligh says the incident was unprecedented at any other fluoride treatment plant in Australia and Mark Pascoe, CEO of the International Water Centre based in Brisbane, will lead the investigation.