The Clutha District Council (CDC) will reinstate fluoridation of Balclutha, Kaitangata, Milton and Tapanui drinking water “early next year”, CDC group manager service delivery Jules Witt said.
Council agreed to begin fluoridating the four towns in 2010, following public consultation which found the majority of residents were in favour at that time.
But treatment ceased in October 2019 due to contractor health and safety concerns about the fluoridation equipment.
Fluoride levels in Tapanui had exceeded the Ministry of Health’s permitted maximum of 1.50 parts per million (ppm) three times that year.
A council meeting on December 12, 2020, agreed to reinstate fluoridation because a cost-effective solution that met health and safety requirements had been found.
In Mr Witt’s report to that meeting, he said: “Council may consider that wider consultation is required on this polarising issue as it has been 13 years since the referenda had been held”.
However, last week Mr Witt said the council had chosen not to invite public consultation.
“At the time it was noted that it was not a decision about whether to fluoridate or not, because fluoridation had only ceased due to health and safety issues,” he said.
“[It was] rather a decision around the cost, therefore consultation with the public was not required.”
On June 24, 2021, council approved an additional budget to progress with fluoridation upgrades for Balclutha, Milton, Tapanui and Kaitangata.
“This was decided to be funded through Three Waters stimulus funding pending approval from Department of Internal Affairs … The total cost of the reinstatement of fluoride is about $500,000,” Mr Witt said.
“Our contract with City Care Water ended in July [this year] and water services are now being delivered in-house.
“We have been working on improvements to bring our services in line with the new drinking water standards … The probes used to measure the fluoride dose rates require replacement and once we have sourced the new probes we will begin dosing early next year.”
Studies have shown water treatment at safe concentrations results in consistent, low levels of fluoride in the mouth, which can help retain and return minerals removed from teeth by bacterial acids.
The World Health Organisation says sustained consumption of elevated amounts of fluoride can be dangerous, and recommends fluoride levels from 0.5ppm to 1.0ppm.
*Original full-text article online at: https://www.odt.co.nz/regions/south-otago/council-restart-fluoridation