MAYOR Peta Pinson has written to the NSW Health Minister confirming the community poll on water fluoridation will proceed at the December council elections.
Cr Pinson in her letter clarified why the Port Macquarie-Hastings fluoridation dosing plant has not been operational for 18 months.
She has also asked the Minister to provide a clear explanation around where the fluoride used in the water supply is sourced, how it is used in the fluoridation process and deemed safe by NSW Health for human consumption.
The community poll was reconfirmed at the August council meeting after NSW Health Minister Brad Hazzard expressed concerns in a letter to the mayor about the wording of the poll question.
The Minister was also concerned that council intends to ask residents if it wants fluoride permanently removed from the water supply, despite the fact council had not met its requirement to add fluoride for the last 18 months.
The Minister offered council full funding for an upgrade of its fluoride dosing plant to ensure it can adequately and efficiently meet fluoridation requirements into the future.
Council confirmed that it paused fluoridation processes in late 2019 in response to the severe drought and level 4 water restrictions. As a result, dam levels diminished considerably.
Council said it liaised with NSW Health and the EPA on this matter.
While council resumed fluoridation of the Wauchope drinking water supply at the Wauchope Treatment Plant on 9 April 2021, it had not recommenced fluoridation of the Hastings district water supply.
Council explains why.
Fluoridating the Hastings water supply – why it stopped
Fluoride is added to the level of 1mg per litre, as required by NSW Health.
The fluoride level in the water supply to Wauchope meets NSW Health requirements.
Water transferred to Cowarra and Port Macquarie Dams includes fluoride that is added to the level of 1mg per litre, as required by NSW Health.
The volume of water in storage at each dam dilutes the fluoride concentration levels to below the required level of 1mg per litre.
In 2019, in consultation with NSW Health, council paused fluoride dosing when the severe drought meant it could not draw water from the Hastings River as normal.
A briefing was held with councillors in February 2020 to discuss the pause to fluoride dosing.
Fluoride dosing was removed from the usual control sequence as dam levels dropped in order to maximise available extraction opportunities. The pause on fluoride dosing also coincided with a review of environmental considerations around open water storage dams and the reticulated network.
Since the drought, council has replenished dam levels, but with fluoride dosing still paused for the bulk supply, the level of fluoride in the dams has continued to dilute.
Council recommenced fluoride dosing directly to the Wauchope water supply in April 2021.
Council is working with NSW Health and the NSW Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) to recommence fluoridation for the Hastings’ bulk water supply.
NSW Health requires council to report where fluoride levels of 0.9mg/L have been reached and maintained for three months. Because the fluoride levels in the bulk water supply is diluted, council has never reached this reporting target.
Council says it has always provided regular reports to NSW Health regarding both water supplies. These reports are also available to the community on council’s website.
When fluoride dosing was paused, council said NSW Health and councillors were informed and it continued to provide fluoridation levels on its website.
Cr Pinson wanted it made clear that at no time did the elected body – councillors – make a decision to switch off fluoridation.
In her response to Minister Brad Hazzard, the mayor said if the poll demonstrates a majority of the community wants fluoride in the water supply, she will advocate that council partners with the state government to deliver an appropriate solution, or upgraded dosing facilities, to ensure council meets that expectation. This is of course if she is re-elected as the poll results will be for the new council to consider.
The Port News conducted a poll asking readers if they thought the community poll should go ahead, given the debate about the cost (up to $90,000) and purpose (it is non-binding).
We asked: Should the Port Macquarie-Hastings fluoride community poll go ahead at the council election?
Of the 306 responses, 76.8 per cent of people said NO; while 22.5 per cent said YES.
“I remain of the opinion that the community poll is going to deliver an understanding of what the community is thinking,” Cr Pinson said.
“I say to the community, don’t be afraid to engage on things that may be uncomfortable. All we are hearing being regurgitated is that it is non-binding and it’s a waste of money. Let’s just find out once and for all and stop this debate.
“I’m not going to apologise for bringing such a relevant piece into our community and crack it open for discussion.”
Deputy mayor Lisa Intemann, who has been an anti-fluoride advocate for more than 17 years, ensured the chemical name of the fluoride used in the water supply remained in the community poll question which will now ask: “Do you want Port Macquarie-Hastings Council to permanently cease adding fluoride (hydrofluosilicic acid) to the drinking water supply”?
Cr Pinsonalsoasked the Health Minister to provide clarity and comment on the requirement to use hydrofluosilicic acid in the drinking water supply – a chemical that she says is classified as a ‘grade S7 dangerous poison’.
She said this would be helpful in providing people with information that will allow them to make an informed decision.
Water utilities in NSW are required, by law, to add fluoride to water.
A NSW Health information sheet says the three main fluoride compounds used are sodium fluoride, hydrofluosilicic acid or hexafluorosilicic acid and sodium silicofluoride. All of these compounds fully mix (dissociate) in water, it says.
NSW Health says all finished water is tested daily to ensure correct fluoride dosing and drinking water is sampled throughout NSW to ensure compliance with Australian Drinking Water Guidelines.
Hydrofluosilicic acid, sodium silicofluoride and sodium fluoride are commonly sourced from phosphate fertiliser manufacturers.
The Port Macquarie-Hastings fluoridation plant was funded by the NSW government and is located at Rosewood Road reservoir site in Wauchope.
Fluoridation of Port Macquarie-Hastings district water supply began in February 2012.