Fluoride Action Network

Warwick: Pollies in dark over fluoride

Source: Warwick Daily News | May 19th, 2011 | By Jenna Cairney and Jeremy Sollars
Location: Australia

CARTING water may seem unusual after the abundance of rain, but Councillor Ross Bartley this week insisted on BYO-ing his H2O to council chambers.

While councillors were unaware engineers had reinitiated fluoridation of Warwick town water after it was scrapped last month due to initial safety concerns, Cr Bartley was taking no chances.

Fluoride started to pump through the water systems in Warwick and Stanthorpe last Thursday, without any further notice from council.

At Tuesday’s round of committee meetings Cr Bartley said he didn’t care if his Junabee tank water contained dead frogs or bird poo, he’d sooner drink that than Warwick tap water.

This prompted Cr Cameron Gow, who was unaware of the progress of the fluoridation program, to ask what stage it was at as he had already received complaints the water tasted “terrible”.

But engineering director Peter See – who had recently returned from his holidays – didn’t know if the teething problems experienced in introducing the State Government fluoridation scheme in April had been ironed out.

Even Mayor Ron Bellingham admitted he wasn’t informed about the progress but said he assumed it would have gone ahead once the “technical issues had been resolved”.

Cr Bellingham denied council’s communications strategy on fluoride was deliberately low-key, saying he was satisfied enough notice had been given to the community that it had been added to urban supplies, particularly in light of concerns about its safety.

“We did not foresee any technical issues with the introduction but as it happened we needed to do some fine-tuning,” the mayor said.

“I know there are some people who are passionately opposed to fluoride and some who are passionately in favour, but either way this was a State Government directive.

“We had no choice other than to comply, it was a no-win for us.

“The State has funded its introduction and we will have to cover the ongoing operational costs.”

The mayor agreed many residents had commented over the years about a harsh or chemical taste to Warwick’s town water, but said that with any treated supply – fluoridated or otherwise – some people would inevitably have a taste issue.

Cr Bellingham said while he had “grown up on tank water” he would be more than happy to drink the newly-fluoridated Warwick town water “straight out of the tap, with no qualms whatsoever”.

Council originally announced that fluoride would be introduced to the town water supply in Warwick and Stanthorpe in the third week of April, as reported in the Daily News on April 16.

An advertisement was placed in the paper but the Daily News received no further media release and had to prompt council for further information.

Things went awry on the Wednesday of that week when a media release was issued saying the commissioning of fluoride had been “re-scheduled” due to a technical hiccup at the water treatment plants in both towns.

At the time a spokeswoman said “fine-tuning of the system” was needed after brand new fluoride analysers were found to be sucking in air as well as water.

This rendered fluoride level readings meaningless and ran the risk of dangerously high levels entering the water.

Fluoride dosing was immediately shut down due to health fears, with council expecting to resume in the first week of May.

It was not until last Thursday that engineers advised senior council officers fluoride had been re-introduced, with the Daily News informed of the success only after querying council and receiving a two-line statement sent via email late on Tuesday of this week.

“Fluoride addition to the water in Warwick and Stanthorpe commenced on Thursday morning at 11am,” the message read.

“The target concentration of 0.8mg/L was achieved on Friday morning.”

A council spokeswoman said yesterday they expected fluoride to be flowing through the whole of Warwick’s urban water supply system by today and Stanthorpe’s would have been fully dosed by Tuesday at the latest.

Fast fluoride facts

  • New fluoride treatment pumps installed at Warwick and Stanthorpe water treatment plants in April
  • The move was required under State Government’s Water Fluoridation Act 2008 to assist with dental health.
  • Contractors Prominent Fluid Control tested the new pumps last month, dosing the town water low amounts of fluoride and gradually increasing in line with Australian drinking water guidelines until the air suction problem was detected.
  • For information on fluoridation of our water systems visit http://access.health.qld.gov.au.