Fluoridation of the water supply to Lismore and Ballina moved a step closer yesterday after the award of the tender to build four dosing plants, but anti-fluoride campaigners may yet continue their fight to stop it.

Rous Water announced yesterday that the tender had been accepted for the building of the four plants at Clunes, Corndale, Dorrougby and Knockrow, with the state health department to cover the initial cost of around $2.7 million.

Anti-fluoride campaigner Al Oshlack told ABC North Coast that he attended the meeting to advise delegates they could be in a legally tricky situation if they voted to go ahead with plan.

Mr Oshlack said the argument by pro-fluoride supporters was that it was given as a therapy to stop tooth cavities. Mr Oshlack argued that if that was the case, then fluoride would be a medicine requiring a licence from the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA).

The vote by Rous Water councillors to award tender was carried 4-3.

Chair of Rous Water, Cr Sue Meehan, told the ABC the project was costly due to Byron Shire Council’s decision to opt out of the plan.

Cr Meehan said because Byron was excluded from the dosing-plant network, four sites have to built instead of two, which meant a doubling of the price of the plants including their ongoing maintenance.

Meanwhile,  the Fluoride Action Network Australia (FAN) has accused Australia’s National Medical Research Council (NHMRC) of ‘extreme bias’ in the makeup of the committee set to review water fluoridation’s health effects.

According to FAN, the NHMRC has stacked its new fluoride committee with at least nine members who have publicly advocated for water fluoridation.

An additional five members of the new committee have also publicly advocated for water fluoridation, making fluoridation advocates to be a majority of the 15 member NHMRC committee, according to Merilyn Haines, president of FAN Australia.

Ms Haines said four of the committee members weree well known fluoridation activists who had all also received significant grant funding from the NHMRC and all have used their own publications to promote fluoridation.

She said two of committee members had been involved in court cases ‘to assist fluoridation being forced on NSW residents’.

‘It appears that the NHMRC CEO has also not invited anyone who is opposed to fluoridation to join the committee despite the NHMRC claiming in late 2013 and early 2014 that their review process will be open and transparent and would include anti-fluoride representatives,’ Ms Haines said.

‘It is now August and the NHMRC has still not disclosed the committee members’ conflicts of interests even though the new committee commenced official meetings in June after being appointed by the CEO in May 2014.

‘The NHMRC have invited the public to submit evidence on fluoridation health effects but the public has been allowed only one month to submit evidence, despite the planned two year review timeline.

‘The NHMRC have also said they will reject personal evidence of harm such as medical histories, case notes etc from members of public.

‘The NHMRC’s intention to do such an extremely biased and deliberately skewed review of water fluoridation is dishonest, it brings disrepute to Australian medical research and is fraudulent use of taxpayer’s money.

‘How can anyone ever take the NHMRC seriously again when they descend to this sort of tactics to protect fluoridation, an outdated practice that most of the world countries don’t even do,’ she said.