THE prospect of about $50 million in costs to remove fluoride from the Redland City water supply is an extraordinary claim. That that is one of scenarios Redland City Council is considering as it prepares to respond to the state government's decision to hand control for fluoridation of water supplies to local government. The decision reverses that of the previous government, which legislated for state control of fluoridation.
Fluoridation of water supplies is a controversial policy because of the strong opposition from some who oppose anything being put into drinking water by governments. The extreme see it as a way of controlling the minds of the population, where others are opposed to fluoride as a chemical, regarding it as a poison.
Those in favour of fluoridation trake the view of another way to improve dental health, preventing tooth decay and subsequent costs of dental care.
The decision on whether Redland City Council will continue to fluoridate the city's drinking water is being complicated by the costs of changing the arrangement. Council is being advised that it is not a simple as merely turning off the fluoride tap.
The first complication is the SEQ water grid, of which Redlands, Logan, Gold Coast and Brisbane are a part. Because water in this grid theoretically travels via pipelines between the four local authorities, if all four entities do not adopt the same stance on fluoridation, the water can't be transferred in the system without some intervention to either remove or add fluoride.
The state government policy to hand-ball the decision to local government ignores the possible scenarios in the South East corner of the state.
The cost estimates in the Redlands would apply only if city decided not to have fluoridation and Logan and Gold Coast did. While Redlands usually uses its own treated water from Leslie Harrison Dam or from North Stradbroke Island, if there was ever a need to use water via the pipeline from Logan, the fluoride would need to be removed.
The equipment to do this is where the majority of the estimated cost lies.
As with the disbanding of Allconnex, the true cost will not be evident until all the players in the game make their decision whether to keep fluoride in the water.
The question remains whether council's decision on fluoridation will be made on the grounds of costs or health policy. The cost decision is a convenient way of avoiding a decision based on health.