LIKE it or not, Gympie’s town water supplies and those of the Cooloola Coast will be fluoridated by the end of the year.
Despite frequently expressed views under Gympie Regional Council and the previous Cooloola Shire Council administrations, the new fluoride era will be introduced as a matter of law.
Cooloola Shire for years insisted that it wanted full public consultation, full information and a referendum of residents on the issue.
Yesterday, Gympie Regional councillors made it clear that they have no choice but to go along with State Government plans to add fluoride to drinking water as a dental health measure.
Councillors yesterday reluctantly agreed to state government plans to fluoridate Gympie and Cooloola Coast town water supplies, despite years of community division and a repeated council stand against “compulsory mass medication”.
“They haven’t given us much choice,” Works and Services Committee chairman Larry Friske told yesterday’s committee meeting at Gympie Town Hall.
His comment followed advice from his Water and Sewerage manager Ian Schiefelbein, who told the meeting that council could apply for funding for the project or the state government would come in and do the job itself.
“If council does not do it, they have the legal right to enter council property and construct it – and if we obstruct them we are committing an offence,” he said.
In his written report, Mr Schiefelbein said council was “required by legislation to construct a fluoridation plant at the Gympie and Cooloola Cove/Tin Can Bay treatment plants”.
Fifty thousand dollars had been allowed in the current year’s budget for the project, with other costs to be allowed for in the upcoming year’s budget, subject to a 100 per cent subsidy for “eligible project costs”.
Council would need to provide about $50,000 for each plant for ineligible costs for improvements to be made in tandem with fluoridation, but which are not directly fluoride related.
Speaking at Gympie’s Jones Hill water treatment plant, he told The Gympie Times that council would achieve some benefits for carrying out these other improvements in association with the fluoridation project.
In acknowledgement of previous controversy in the near-Gympie area over fluoridation of reticulated water supplies, he reported: “Fluoridation may not be accepted by many members of the community.”
The legislation requires the new system to be installed by the end of this calendar year, with provision for the government to “enter the treatment plants and construct fluoridation plants if the system is not operational by the required date.
“Fortnightly reports (to the government) on progress of fluoridation are required to be submitted.”
Fluoridation has been previously rejected by council’s predecessor, Cooloola Shire Council, which opted instead to provide fluoride tablets to residents requesting them. However, when the government over-rode Cooloola Shire policies, then-Mayor Mick Venardos said that, on the basis of the state government’s track record, he was not surprised.
Cr Jan Watt walked out of council in protest earlier this year, rather than obey the new government instructions.