Fluoride Action Network

Fluoridation of five largest Tasman water supplies tipped to cost $1.3m

Source: Stuff.co.nz | February 23rd, 2022 | By Alden Williams
Location: New Zealand

Tasman District Council estimates it will cost just over $1.3 million to fluoridate its five largest drinking water supplies, if it is directed to add the chemical.

In addition to that capital expenditure for its dosing those five supplies for Richmond, Motueka, Mapua-Ruby Bay, Brightwater-Hope and Wakefield, the council predicts fluoridation will swallow another $125,000 annually in operational costs.

At present, the council does not add fluoride to any of its water supplies, nor does it have the capability to do so.

The expected capital and operational costs of fluoride dosing its five largest supplies were compiled in response to a request from the Ministry of Health on its fluoridation “readiness” and any cost and planning pressures faced.

It comes after Director-General of Health Dr Ashley Bloomfield wrote to all councils in mid-December regarding the implementation of the Health (Fluoridation of Drinking Water) Amendment Act 2021. This law gives the director-general of health powers to direct a local authority to add fluoride to its drinking water supplies.

In the letter, Bloomfield says he expects to “consider issuing directions to fluoridate from mid-2022 onwards”. He encourages councils to begin fluoridation-related preparatory work for schemes that supply 500 or more people, especially in areas with “larger populations or that have poor oral health outcomes”.

“Please note, local authorities do not need to wait for a potential direction from me to start fluoridating water supplies in their area,” Bloomfield says. “Community water fluoridation will substantially reduce rates of preventable tooth decay, and it is widely recognised as one of the most important and proven public health measures to improve oral health.”

To support early adoption, the Ministry of Health has a “limited” capital works fund if a council is willing and able to begin capital works before the end of 2022, but allocation will be prioritised to communities with poor oral health outcomes, Bloomfield says.

A council staff report says the request relates to the five schemes in Tasman District that supply more than 500 people.

“Council staff do not know whether any of these supplies meet the threshold of ‘larger populations’ or ‘poor oral health outcomes’ so are unable to predict whether a direction to fluoridate is likely in the near future,” the report says. “Therefore, staff will be required to commence preparatory work now unless further guidance on thresholds is received.”

That preparatory work is in addition to work associated with Three Waters and resource management reforms.

Supplying 6325 connections, the Richmond scheme is the largest and fluoridation is estimated to have capital expenditure of $440,000 and annual operating expenditure of $44,000. The others are Motueka (1400 connections), $310,000 capex and $29,000 opex; Mapua-Ruby Bay (1200 connections), $210,000 capex and $19,000 opex; Brightwater-Hope (1500 connections), also $210,000 capex and $19,000 opex and Wakefield (900 connections), $150,000 capex and $14,000 opex.

About 10 per cent of the estimated capital costs are for design.

“It is possible that cost and time savings can be made by procuring and approving a universal design for all five water supplies, with some allowance for site specific design prior to construction at each site,” the staff report says.

*Original article online at https://www.stuff.co.nz/national/health/127800643/fluoridation-of-five-largest-tasman-water-supplies-tipped-to-cost-13m