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Thousands of Cabonne residents still don't have fluoride in their water supply. Why?

December 15, 2022

Stock image.

By Peter Holmes

The Australian Dental Association NSW (ADA NSW) is calling on Cabonne Shire Council to make 2023 the year it ensures all residents have access to fluoridated drinking water.

“We want to see action from the council to urgently resolve the issues and get the local water supply fluoridated,” said ADA NSW president Dr Rohan Krishnan.

“Water fluoridation is oral health prevention on tap – and the residents of Molong have been waiting way too long.”

For Cabonne Shire Council, this is easier said than done.

While Central Tablelands Water supplies Canowindra, Cargo, Cudal, Eugowra and Manildra, Cabonne Council provides water to Molong, Cumnock and Yeoval.

In a 2013 paper on fluoridation, the NSW Department of Health said that 2,050 residents out of a total Cabonne Shire Council population of 12,824 did not have access to water with fluoride.

Adding fluoride to the water supply, which is sourced from Molong Creek Dam, and spruced up at the Molong water treatment plant, has been on the agenda for many years.

The ADA NSW says that, according to local dentists, community consultations led to fluoridation being greenlighted for Molong in 2011.

“Since then, the water plant has been upgraded so that town water can be supplied to both Cumnock and Yeoval, but there have been concerns around adequate training of staff, among other issues,” it said.

In August 2019 Cabonne Shire Council issued a statement about the water supply.

“Work to fluoridate the water supply to Molong, Cumnock and Yeoval has moved a step closer, with the installation of a new fluoridation plant expected to be completed next month,” it said.

“The new plant at Molong will begin operating once final approval is received from the NSW Department of Industry and Department of Health. Fluoride will then be added to the water supply.

“When the Molong to Cumnock and Yeoval pipeline and connection works in each village are completed, Cumnock and Yeoval will receive drinking water from the Molong water treatment plant. This means Cumnock and Yeoval will also receive fluoridated water.”

But the ADA NSW says that in the same year, “the Department of Primary Industries did a backflip and did not approve the plant and dosing system. The resulting delays have meant fluoride has not been added to the water supply of all three towns”.

Cabonne Shire mayor Kevin Beatty told The Orange News Examiner on Thursday morning that council was still waiting for final approval from the state government to allow it to add fluoride to the water.

The process of preparing a water treatment plant for the addition of fluoride is complex, he said, as it requires sign-off not only on plant equipment, but on adequate training for staff who will be adding the fluoride and monitoring the supply.

Cabonne mayor Kevin Beatty, after cutting a deal with Orange City Council over emergency water supply in 2020. Supplied.

Like so many employers around the region, the council is believed to be facing challenges in filling some positions. As a local government area with a small population, problems with training staff to handle the fluoride, and then retaining them, can be magnified.

The Covid pandemic has also led to delays in the inspection process.

Beatty said adding fluoride “was a good thing … but you’ve got to get it right”.

“We’re going to be trying our best [in 2023] to get fluoride up and running.”

The ADA NSW said children aged 0-9 in rural areas were about 50 percent more likely to be hospitalised for dental conditions compared with their city counterparts.

“Fluoridated water can help prevent cavities in children from birth,” the ADA NSW said.

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