Tapping into fluoride

The water supply tower at Big Nobby, Crescent Head
The water supply tower at Big Nobby, Crescent Head

Kempsey Shire Council is proposing to combine the Crescent Head and Hat Head water supply which includes fluoridation.

The Crescent Head water supply, which is a bore water supply, was originally earmarked to receive fluoridation in December 2015, however, due to 100 per cent State Government funding arrangements, the State has asked council to concentrate on the fluoridation of the Kempsey  supply before Crescent.

The Stuart Macintyre Dam supplies water to Kempsey, down to Jerseyville, as well as Frederickton and Clybucca. Council is currently moving forward to add fluoride and chlorine to the system, which is a State Government initiative by NSW Health, with expectations the system will come online by December this year.

Council director of infrastructure services Robert Scott told the Macleay Argus the initial priority was to complete the fluoridation of Crescent Head, however, those priorities have now changed.

“The water supply at Crescent Head was a smaller discrete system and was more likely to be achieved in a shorter timeframe,” Mr Scott said.

“The project at the dam was to be completed after Crescent Head was finished with investigations and approvals for the dam obtained whilst the work at Crescent Head was in progress as the project at the dam was expected to be a lot more difficult to develop.”

Mr Scott said both projects required substantial negotiation between council and NSW Health, as the State is funding 100 per cent of the construction costs as well as multiple approval steps under the legislation. 

“There were several technical arguments over key aspects of each project during the initial approval phases, which delayed earlier completion,” Mr Scott said.

“Additional resources have been appointed to complete development of the dam project and tenders are expected to be called for the work at the dam in April. At present the target date for commissioning of the dam system is December 2016, however, this will be revised once a construction contractor has been appointed from the tender process and we have their construction program.”

Mr Scott said during the investigation work for the Crescent Head water supply, council looked at a strategy to link the coastal schemes of Hat Head and Crescent Head. 

“This is a long term strategy to secure better water quality through a single water treatment plant,” he said.  

“The current supply at Crescent Head suffers taste and odour issues associated with dissolved organic carbon which the treatment system can’t remove.

“When we looked at the cost to install the fluoride equipment in addition to the prospects that the existing treatment site at Crescent Head may become redundant in the future, a determination was made by NSW Health that the Crescent Head project would be put on hold and the priority would be given to completing the Stuart Macintyre Dam.   

The Argus spoke to a number of Crescent Head residents about the issue, and none held concerns about the prospect of a fluoridated supply.

“I think it should be a good thing and I don’t mind,” Jim Baxter said. 

“The experts believe it’s good for your teeth and bones and I’m pretty sure they wouldn’t say that unless they had proof.”

Rosemary Sinclair was a little more cautious: “I haven’t made up my mind and I would like to find out a bit more about it, but really I don’t think they should be putting anything in the water.”