After the lengthy and at times heated debate in the months leading up to crunch time in Lithgow Council’s decision to fluoridate the water supply, when the final debate came it was all very much a non event.
When it came to the vote the opponents both in the gallery and around the Council table had clearly conceded that they did not have the general support needed to sway the outcome on the controversial issue.
Council first began debating fluoridation more than 40 years ago.
In the 1960s when the issue was rejected it was on the basis of costs involved in treating the water.
This time around with the State Government picking up the tab for the infrastructure the debate was more correctly centred on health issues, particularly dental health.
Key issues were the poor comparisons between the dental health of young people in Lithgow and those in areas with fluoridation and, for the opponents, claims of possible side effects.
This week’s meeting was told that at a public forum on the issue there had been very limited public interest but those who did attend were either in favour of fluoride or vehemently opposed and it was clear that no common ground could be found.
Crs Barbara Moran and Brian Morrissey moved for the adoption of fluoridation.
Cr Moran said her decision was based on the results of a public survey, the State average of fluoridated supplies, and the information from various medical organisations.
“It has been very convincing to me,” she said.
Cr Howard Fisher said he had been consistently opposed and would not be changing his view.
He said that the attendance at the public meeting had been very disappointing and indicated the community had no strong views one way or the other.
“Interest in general in this very important subject is very poor,” he said.
“I have a philosophical view we should not interfere with the water supply in Lithgow.”
Cr Martin Ticehurst moved that Council delay its decision until a poll in connection with next year’s Council elections but this failed to gain a seconder.
He said he was not opposed to fluoridation per se but did not believe eight Councillors should make a decision on behalf of more than 20,000 residents.
Cr Brian Morrissey said the poll would be an unnecessary waste of money as a reputable independent survey had already indicated 73 per cent of the population in favour of fluoridation.
He said that Councillors had been bombarded with anti fluoridation literature from lobbyists in Scandinavia and elsewhere in Europe.
“I base my viewpoint on the information from the National Health and Research Council, an independent body,” he said.
The organisation had conducted a number of studies since the 1970s and had found no adverse health effects from the accepted levels of water dosage.
Cr Morrissey said no one could refute the evidence of the big difference in dental health between residents of the Blue Mountains and Lithgow.
Cr Margaret Collins said that she had also been swayed by the evidence from local community dental health workers who were clearly concerned at the dental health of children, particularly those from low socio economic backgrounds.
Cr Ann Thompson said she had ‘agonised’ over the issue but felt that if more people were strongly opposed they would have made their feelings known.
Cr Thompson, Mayor Neville Castle, Cr Morrissey, Cr Moran and Cr Collins voted in support of fluoridation.
Crs Fisher, Ticehurst and Michael Wilson voted against (Cr Wayne McAndrew was not at the meeting).
Council officers will now prepare a report on the processes necessary to implement the water treatment.