FLUORIDE will be added to the Northern Rivers’ water supply after Rous Water councillors were told they could be held personally financially liable for any further delay in approving the scheme.
Two separate legal opinions said councillors could face fines of up to $500 a day if they continued to delay approval.
Councillor David Yarnall, who last month said he was concerned about the ‘flawed’ review of environmental issues, yesterday expressed frustration as he changed his vote to allow fluoridisation of the region’s water supply.
“This is incredibly frustrating,” he told the meeting. “I still think the REF (Review of Environmental Factors) is inadequate, but we are being told by legal advice that we have effectively been ordered to do this and that there is no room to move.
“I find this extremely distressing as it takes away our democratic rights. I unfortunately feel we have no alternative at this stage. I am not prepared to put my personal well-being at risk and incur penalties from a government department which is happy to squash an individual who steps outside the line.”
With Cr Yarnall now on side, the Rous board was evenly divided until chairman Cr Col Sullivan used his casting vote to approve fluoridisation.
Rous Water commissioned the legal advice after the NSW Department of Health rejected its request for an extension to the January 2012 deadline so it could seek expert advice from an environmental toxicologist.
Dr Lindsay Taylor, of Lindsay Taylor Lawyers, told Rous Water it had ‘no power to do otherwise than implement the (Health Department) Secretary’s direction and approvals without delay’.
However, in a case of ‘damned if you do and damned if you don’t’, fellow councillor Vanessa Ekins said she had received her own legal advice that the board could be liable for not fulfilling its obligations to residents by not insisting on a delay until they received the toxicology report.
“It says it is our duty as councillors to be satisfied that the REF has dealt with these matters, and we aren’t satisfied. So I am really concerned that Cr Yarnall is worried about the threat of legal action,” she said.
Earlier, during public access, speakers expressed concerns that if extra doses of fluoride were added to the water supply it would not be possible to determine people’s total dosage.
However, this was rejected by paediatrician and media spokesman for the Lismore Base Hospital’s medical council, Dr Chris Ingall, who said the overwhelming majority of peer reviewed studies found that fluoride was not toxic.
Rous Water will now start working on the construction of fluoride dosing plants at Clunes, Dorroughby, Corndale and Knockrow.