Fluoride will no longer be added to the South Burnett’s town water supplies after the South Burnett Regional Council voted unanimously today to end the practice – partly as a cost-saving measure, and partly because few people drink the water anyway.
Councillors had little hesitation in putting an end to fluoridation at the Council’s first monthly meeting for 2013.
The decision is expected to save between $170,000 and $200,000 a year, which is about 20 per cent of current water processing costs.
Councillors heard the region was forced to fluoridate town water supplies in 2008 after the Bligh Government’s Water Fluoridation Act made the practice mandatory in Queensland.
This was despite a 2007 report commissioned by the former Kingaroy Shire Council which found that 69 per cent of Kingaroy residents rated the taste of the water supply as “very poor”; a further 23 per cent rated it as “poor”; and most used tank water or other water sources for drinking.
The Council was told that after the Act was passed, five fluoride plants were installed in the region by the State Government at a cost of $2 million.
But the Council was forced to fund their ongoing operation and maintenance costs.
Mayor Wayne Kratzmann said after the Newman Government gave councils back the power to decide whether their water supplies should be fluoridated late last year, it had become obvious that a balanced position needed to be taken for the good of the entire community.
“Council is committed to responsible service delivery,” he said, “and that includes getting value for money as well as promoting the health of residents.”
“The facts are that the number of residents who drink town water is very low and the cost of fluoridation is very high.”
He said the Council was basing its decision to axe fluoridation purely on financial grounds and would leave the health debate to others.
Water portfolio spokesperson Cr Barry Green agreed.
“The reality is that most of this expensive fluoride additive is being flushed down toilets and hosed onto gardens,” he said.
“At a time when we’re watching every penny, it is fiscally stupid to pay 20 per cent more for something no one uses. But I would encourage those who believe in the health benefits of fluoride to source it from elsewhere.”
Cr Damien Tessmann said he agreed not only on fiscal grounds, but also on ethical grounds.
“Mass medication of the population is something no government has a right to do,” he said.
“Kingaroy Shire Council used to offer fluoride tablets to residents who wanted to drink fluoridated water, and I think that was probably a better approach.
“I believe the community is right behind us on this.”
The motion to cease adding fluoride to the Blackbutt, Nanango, Kingaroy, Wondai and Murgon water supplies “as soon as practicable” was passed unanimously.