Council looks likely to wash its hands of the water fluoridation debate when it meets this week.
As per recommendations in Wednesday’s meeting agenda, it is believed councillors will refer the decision on whether to fluoridate Bega Valley water supplies to NSW Health.
However, by doing so council will, in effect, be giving the go ahead to fluoridate as the state government department has been strongly encouraging BVSC to fluoridate two of its four supplies.
There are four water supply systems in the Bega Valley Shire, Tantawanglo-Kiah, Brogo-Bermagui, Bemboka and Bega-Tathra.
Fluoride has been added to the Bega-Tathra water supply system since 1963 and council has looked at adding fluoride to the Tantawanglo-Kiah and Brogo-Bermagui water supplies.
The fluoridation question has been the source of much concern by the community and there has been a concerted effort by anti-fluoride campaigners during the public submission period.
Council received a total of 332 valid submissions and of these 86 per cent were against fluoridation.
The 14 per cent that supported fluoridation mostly cited dental health benefits. Submissions against fluoridation cited a number of reasons including fluoride being toxic, being against mass medication, being against forced medication, didn’t believe that fluoride reduced tooth decay and didn’t want chemicals added to drinking water.
In a letter to council’s general manager Leanne Barnes, the chief health officer of population and deputy secretary of public health at NSW Health Dr Kerry Chant “strongly encouraged” council to consider fluoridation of the two water supplies.
In his report to council, BVSC director of transport of utilities Terry Dodds said substantial, peer-reviewed science-based information had been provided to the community.
“Central to the majority of fluoride debate is the issue of credibility and believability. Whilst the passion and commitment of the ‘No to fluoride’ stakeholders is respected, the weight of peer reviewed, scientific, epidemiological and medical evidence supports the safety and efficacy of fluoridation,” Mr Dodds said.
“At its heart, the addition of fluoride to drinking water is a dental health issue and accordingly any decision to add fluoride to drinking water should rest on science and data. The NHMRC Information Paper is the gold standard in terms of current health policy advice for the Australian community, health professionals and governments.
“Accordingly, this report recommends council resolve to refer the question directly to the Secretary of NSW Health for decision under Section 6A of the Fluoridation of Public Water Supplies Act 1957,” Mr Dodds concluded.
However, Rob Slazenger, of Bermagui, said ratepayers and residents had clearly indicated they did not wish to undergo municipal water fluoridation.
“Petitions, online polls, media reaction and community feedback heavily favour blocking fluoridation. Currently there is around 90 per cent solid opposition to water fluoridation in the Bermagui area,” Mr Slazenger claimed.
“In a healthy democracy a decisive community majority should count. Your (councillors) role is to represent your local communities' wishes, not state government agencies, nor water industry interests, nor the fluoride waste industry.
“Options for councillors are not limited to just rolling over – either approving fluoridation, or delegating to NSW Health. Councillors are entitled to vote against fluoridation, which is expected by your ratepayers, or defer the matter for 10 years.
“There are several shires in NSW, and many across the rest of Australia, that have banned water fluoridation altogether. Those councillors have listened to, and acted on behalf of, their ratepayers and residents,” Mr Slazenger said.
Council provides drinking water to about 29,000 people, increasing to 45,000 people during peak holiday times.