There has been a drop in fluoride levels in the drinking water across the Wellington region over the past four months. This means that Wellington Water has not been able to meet the Ministry of Health (MoH) fluoride target levels of 0.7 – 1.0ppm, 95% of the time.

This has been caused by a number of unexpected operational events such as plant outages, equipment issues and workplace health and safety improvements.

This means that residents of Hutt City, (with the exception of Stokes Valley, Manor Park, Korokoro, and Petone) and Wellington City, (with exception of the northern and western suburbs), have not been getting the recommended levels of fluoride in their drinking water.

“We regularly monitor the levels of fluoride in the drinking water at the treatment plants in the metropolitan Wellington region. We let people know when we have to turn fluoride off at any of the plants and notify our key stakeholders if an outage has a significant impact on our ability to meet the MoH target levels,” says Tonia Haskell, Wellington Water’s CE.

“In this instance, we have had a number of smaller incidents with a cumulative impact over a period of time. So, we are letting our shareholding councils, stakeholders and the public know.”

In October 2023, we turned off the fluoride facilities at Waterloo and Wainuiomata Water Treatment Plans to investigate and improve our health and safety practices at the plants. This has been completed. There have been some unexpected equipment issues at the Wainuiomata Plant which meant fluoride had to be turned off periodically. We are working to resolve these issues.

The Te Marua Water Treatment Plant experienced some equipment issues, and the fluoride facility was turned off while we made repairs. This has been resolved.

The fluoride facility at the Gear Island however has some ongoing issues with the pumps and will require a longer-term solution.

“When the facility at Gear Island was built the pumps that were installed have since proven not fit for purpose.”

“Over the past few months, we’ve tried various fixes to get the pumps performing at the level they should be. In October 2023 we made the decision to replace them with new, more suitable pumps. These are being sourced from Germany. We expect to have them installed and fluoride back at the right levels in the next few months.”

“While the work to replace the pumps at Gear Island is underway, we expect fluoride levels from Gear Island to be below the Ministry of Health target.”

We have an obligation to keep the public, our councils, and the regulator informed of these issues. We continue to notify the public of all fluoride outages when they occur and regularly publish the average fluoride levels and our performance against the Ministry of Health target at each plant on our Wellington Water website.

“While we have been keeping people informed over the past few months, the ongoing issues with the pump at Gear Island means we want to ensure that the public are well aware of any issues that would impact our ability to meet the MoH target levels.”

All fluoride outages and notifications can be viewed on Wellington Water’s website. We also publish all outages on our Facebook and Twitter when they occur.

Our monthly reporting on fluoride levels can also be viewed on the Wellington Water website.

RNZ reports:

The problems followed a scathing review in 2022 that found fluoridating water was “not a priority” for Wellington Water. The review was triggered after it was revealed water in the region had been inconsistently fluoridated for six years.

Wellington Water also announced an application for it to be exempt from new rules around chlorine compliance set out by water regulator Taumata Arowai had been rejected.

The standard required water from the treatment plant to have a longer contact time with chlorine to reduce the risk of bacteria.

Wellington Water said it was working on upgrades to bring its chlorine levels up to standard.

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