Concerns after fluoride was cut from Wellington’s water supply

Wellington-area mayors are concerned they have been kept in the dark about Wellington Water’s decision to cut fluoride more than a month ago, and are demanding a “please explain” from the organization.

It was announced on Wednesday that on February 8 Wellington Water shut down fluoridation of water supplies to Wellington City, Upper Hutt and Porirua – an area home to more than 300,000 people. It was also noted that the region has had inconsistent levels of fluoridation over the past four years.

The organization made the decision to shut down fluoridation at two plants after receiving a report stating that the 30-year-old infrastructure was not delivering the correct level of fluoridation and repairs were needed.

Charles Barker, Wellington Water’s director of regulatory services, said fluoride had been halted while the report’s findings were being processed. He rejected any suggestion that should have informed the public earlier.

“We believe we used due diligence to ensure accurate information was provided as quickly as possible,” Barker said.

But Porirua Mayor Anita Baker said she was “pretty damn grumpy” after only learning about the move on Wednesday, and worried about what it meant for her area’s oral health.

Upper Hutt Mayor Wayne Guppy said it had raised questions about Wellington Water’s continued incompetence and said it had been “one drama after another”.

Wellington Mayor Andy Foster said he was “very concerned” and wanted answers for the lack of communication.

The problems aren’t new to Wellington Water, which two years ago knew its fluoride plants weren’t delivering reliable doses.

“We’ve found that the plant isn’t dosing accurately as it ages. I want to stress that at no point did we overdose on fluoride, but what we noticed is that it was under-fluorinated,” Barker said.

The Dental Association said it was “very concerned” to hear the news.

“While we recognize that there are significant concerns about aging infrastructure, our primary concern is the dental health of affected communities,” said Dr. Rob Beaglehole, New Zealand Dental Association spokesman for water fluoridation in the community.

“This will impact the communities of Upper Hutt, Porirua and Wellington, which are already affected by oral health inequalities.”

It will take six to nine months to repair the water treatment plants and put fluoride back into Wellington’s water.

Meanwhile, the association is urging people to use fluoridated toothpaste.

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