Rous Water has deferred a decision about whether to proceed with building four fluoride dosing plants at Corndale, Clunes, Dorroughby and Knockrow and is taking legal advice on a number of issues to do with their statutory authority.
Submissions closed for the Review of Environmental Factors (REF) on February 5 and were then reviewed by town planners Newton Denny Chapelle. Fifty eight submissions were received, with 56 opposed to fluoridation.
Newton Denny Chapelle’s initial advice back to Rous Water was not to proceed with the building of the dosing plants because of concerns that it hadn’t addressed the potential impacts of fluoridated water on the natural environment.
Rous Water’s acting general manager Wayne Franklin said they then sought further information from the NSW Department of Health.
A letter from Dr Shanti Sivaneswaran, principal advisor for the Centre for Oral Health Strategy, was provided, quoting a 1994 Public Health Commission report from New Zealand.
“Given the distribution of fluoride in most ecosystems, it would seem very unlikely that any hazard to the environment exists at a water fluoridation level of 1ppm (part per million). In NSW water is also fluoridated at 1/ppm,” the letter said.
The Department of Health advice also said that fluoridation plants must comply with the NSW Code of Practice for Fluoridation of Public Water Supplies, the Protection of Environment Operations Act 1997 and “other environmental protection legislation or regulations made from time to time”.
This satisfied Newton Denny Chapelle, who then recommended that “from a town planning position… approval of the REF may now be supported” subject to six conditions.
But at the Rous County Council meeting last Wednesday, some councillors wanted additional information and the matter has been deferred until the next meeting on March 17.
In particular, councillor Richard Staples put forward a motion that before building can proceed “full regard be taken of the effects of discharged water to the environment”. The three-part motion also questioned Rous’s role in administering the NSW Health Department’s Code of Practice for the fluoridation of public water supplies, which states, “it is expected that a Water Supply Authority would have carried out a public consultation” prior to applying to fluoridate. Cr Staples also wanted “the fullest environmental impact, including public health and welfare” considered.
Wayne Franklin said Rous is now taking legal advice on a number of matters.
Firstly, whether the Department of Health’s notices to fluoridate are legally binding on Rous Water. Secondly, to what extent the effect of fluoridated water on public health and the receiving environment is a matter that can be considered by Rous Water within their statutory authority.
“The Department of Health came to Rous Water saying, ‘we’d like you to fluoridate the water as a public health matter’… We then passed that question to each of our constituent councils,” Mr Franklin said.
In regard to the issue of public consultation he said, “if we have passed that decision making process on to the constituent councils (Lismore, Ballina, Richmond Valley and Byron) they are the ones who needed to carry out public consultation to the extent they think is necessary…. But I’m not sure we can go and regulate the constituent councils in their application of that code.
“We’re taking overall legal advice about what the roles are and when that’s sorted, we will give some direction back to council for the next meeting on March 17.”
Caption under photo:
Rous Water acting general manager Wayne Franklin. The water authority is seeking legal advice on fluoridation.