RATEPAYERS will be forced to fork out for an upgrade to the Allora Water Treatment Plant ahead of the mandatory State Government introduction of fluoride to water supplies across the Southern Downs and Granite Belt in 2010.
The Southern Downs Regional Council (SDRC) has already committed $40,000 for the design of a new treatment plant for Allora to improve the hardness of the water.
An SDRC spokeswoman said the hardness meant the introduction of fluoride into the water at Allora was more difficult. She said fluoridation and softening plant could be difficult to fit into the plant’s small 220 square metres.
Before fluoride can be implemented into the Allora water supply these issues need to be addressed and the spokeswoman said council proposed to conduct a survey to seek Allora residents’ views on water quality in March next year.
This is despite council being told by the State Government last August it would be required to complete fluoridation of the region by December 2010.
If it fails to do so, it could face a monetary penalty in the hundreds of thousands. Earlier this year the Toowoomba Regional Council was threatened with a $120,000 fine when it did not look like meeting its deadline.
As a result, the SDRC will ask for an extension of the deadline for the introduction of fluoride into the Allora supply until December 2011.
Warwick and Stanthorpe are expected to be fluoridated by the end of next year.
Southern Downs Regional Mayor Ron Bellingham said the State Government would only fund the initial infrastructure to provide fluoridation of water supplies.
This means the bill for any extra upgrades such as Allora’s will need to be met by ratepayers.
“We would hope to get some support from the State Government but that is not guaranteed,” Councillor Bellingham said.
“It would be reasonable to extend the deadline for Allora and I would hope the government would see it as a reasonable request to have the extended timeline.”
Warwick was to have been the test case via a referendum three years ago for fluoride in regional areas, but the State Government scrapped the plan in favour of a full-scale rollout.
Cr Bellingham said he was concerned about the reaction from the public as he was aware of a lot of negativity of fluoridation in the water supply.
“I am extremely disappointed the community was not allowed some referendum – some people are very against it,” he said.
SDRC engineering services director Peter See said he did not think a penalty for missing the deadline for Allora would be an issue.
“We will meet the deadline for Warwick and Stanthorpe and we have good reasons why we can’t meet the deadline for Allora,” Mr See said.
“It is almost impossible for us to do it – given time we can meet the overall expectation of fluoride it’s just going to take us longer.”
Only Warwick, Stanthorpe and Allora meet the population criteria for the introduction of fluoride in our region.
Mr See said the region had only just begun along the timeline for introducing fluoride as the State Government has only recently established an Infrastructure Project Management Group to assist in the process.
Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology School of Applied Sciences applied chemistry Adjunct Professor Colin Rix has completed a study on fluoridation of water and he assured the community it was safe.
“In a correct measured amount it has a very beneficial effect on our teeth,” he said.