Under the state government’s Water Fluoridation Act, passed in November, councils withdrawing from fluoride are liable for all costs incurred including those by the water grid manager, Seqwater.
Redland Water and Waste general manager Gary Soutar said the whopping cost included a $45 million estimate to build a “reverse osmosis plant” on Heinemann Road, Redland Bay, to remove fluoride.
Once built, the council would also be up for ongoing charges and would have to pay Seqwater to maintain and operate the plant.
Added to those costs would be an extra $7.5 million to “decommission” Seqwater’s five fluoride administering plants operating within Redland city.
Mr Soutar said officers handed councillors a fact sheet detailing a range of choices including keeping fluoride, which would incur no cost, and a “hybrid” option to import fluoridated water four months a year.
However, he said any decision was dependent on what Logan and Gold Coast councils decided.
He said if council opted out of fluoride, the reverse osmosis plant would only be used when council imported water from the Mount Crosby Treatment plant in Brisbane City, which has decided to keep fluoride.
But the cleansing plant would be unnecessary if both Redland and Logan opted out of fluoride, as all water imported into Redland would have fluoride taken out in Logan, he said.
Redland Mayor Karen Williams said she was angry the state government had foisted the decision on local government and said she wrote to Logan Mayor Pam Parker to try to work out a bilateral solution.
“Councils should not be forced to make a decision on a public health issue over water that is treated by the state,” Cr Williams said.
“We never asked for fluoride to be put into our water.
“Council should not have to pay the whole-of-life costs to decommission Seqwater’s five treatment plants but it has to because of the legislation.
“If the state is genuine about handing over the decision making to councils, it should not have legislated caveats making removal of fluoride unaffordable.
“Redland can’t make its decision until it knows what Logan is going to do,” she said.
Logan Mayor Pam Parker agreed.
“We’re waiting to see what our neighbours decide. As Logan does not have its own water supply, we are unable to make a decision in isolation.”
Seqwater said it had not done any detailed analysis of costs involved in removing fluoride from the Redland region water supplies.
However, it said, on average, the cost to dose fluoride into the region’s water supply is less than $1 per person per year which included costs for both the chemicals and labour.