TAP DANCING: The debate is enough to drive anyone to drink – but just what will Lismore be drinking?
TAP DANCING: The debate is enough to drive anyone to drink – but just what will Lismore be drinking? Cathy Adams

The fluoride tide is turning

IT'S the never-ending fluoride soap opera of the Northern Rivers.

After voting against fluoridating its water supply last week, Lismore City Council will debate a rescission motion at next month's meeting.

Councillors Graham Meineke, Neil Marks and Matthew Scheibel, who all voted in favour of fluoridation are signatories to the reversal motion.

But it's Cr Gianpiero Battista who has had a change of heart, saying he regretted his decision last week to vote against the measure.

"I'm all for freedom of choice, but the main beneficiaries of fluoride are young children, and they don't have a choice," Cr Battista said.

"Their health is compromised if we don't fluoridate the water.

"We can't allow that to happen."

With Cr Battista now supporting fluoridation, Lismore City Council can be expected to reverse its position next month, with Mayor Jenny Dowell a long-time advocate of the public health measure.

Cr Battista said his decision was partly influenced by Lismore Base Hospital medical staff chair Chris Ingall, who has lobbied several councillors in Ballina and Lismore to reverse their positions on the issue.

Ballina Council will be making its decision on whether to fluoridate today.

"I have canvassed the doctors comprehensively and there is unanimous agreement in our broad group that fluoridation of the water is the only way to protect the teeth of the children in this region," Dr Ingall said.

"Fluoride tablets and other ways of applying fluoride such as toothpaste are only fractionally effective."

"As to the matter of civil rights I would argue that the children who are denied fluoride should also have their civil rights protected."

Cr Dowell's recent call to transfer the power to fluoridate to the NSW Government was supported in Parliament yesterday in a motion by Port Macquarie independent MP Greg Piper.


Rous may dig for water

GROUNDWATER extraction is looking increasingly likely as a key solution in the quest to find a sustainable long-term water supply for the region.

But Rous Water is avoiding putting all its eggs in one basket by continuing to investigate the viability of the $140 million Dunoon Dam project.

Rous Water councillors were given a thorough overview of the groundwater option at a workshop yesterday.

Coastal sands aquifers are relatively cheap to establish and operate and offer reliable yields and fair water quality, according to consulting hydrogeologist Peter Dupen.

But there are constraints, which include having to avoid exposing acid sulphate soils common in coastal areas and not creating saltwater intrusion.

Rous has three existing wells in Alstonville and Woodburn, but would need two or three bore fields with at least five wells in each to harvest the required 3000 megalitres a year.

These would ideally be drawn from coastal sands aquifers around population centres in Byron Bay and Ballina and ancient basalt aquifers on the Alstonville plateau.

Future Water Strategy project manager Rob Cawley said it would take at least four years to test the project viability and establish supply.

But he said groundwater extraction was "well-matched" to the objectives.

"Provided it gives the yield it suggests and doesn't impact on other extractive users," Mr Cawley cautioned.

The final Future Water Strategy will be set by councillors later this year.

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