26 Jun 2009

Australia - Fluoride overdose piped to 400 homes

A MIX of mechanical and human error combined to overdose hundreds of southeast Queensland households with fluoride, a government report says.
The Queensland Government will apologise to about 400 households in the Brisbane suburb of Joyner after it piped drinking water containing around 13 times the maximum recommended dosage of fluoride in April.
Natural Resources Minister Stephen Robertson said a report into the incident by Associate Professor Mark Pascoe, of the public research body The International Water Centre, found that the responsible authority, SEQwater, had failed in its management role.
"SEQwater has breached the Water Supply and Reliability Act, they breached the Water Supply Safety Act,'' Mr Robertson said today.
"I've expressed in very strong terms I find this unacceptable.
"My expectation is the board will take appropriate action against those who have been found to be responsible.
"Should there be a repeat of this incident I will be moving very swiftly to take decisive action at the board level, and possibly senior management level.''
Mr Robertson said he was considering amending the law to give the Government powers to fine organisations that are similarly derelict in their duties.
The mix-up occurred on April 29 this year, but the incident began days before with the disabling of an erratic flow switch and a fluoride "hi-alarm''.
On April 27 the water treatment plant at North Pine was shut down, but the fluoride dosing plant was not turned off.
When, two days later, a fluoride analyser recorded an off-the-scale reading and an alarm was triggered, staff did not respond, assuming it to be a false alarm because the treatment plant was shut down.

At first it was thought as many as 4000 households were affected, but much of the overdosed water was isolated from the public when it was sucked back into the treatment plant as it was restarted.
Mr Robertson said he would write to the affected residents to apologise.
"I can only say how unacceptable I find this incident to be and I do apologise to the people who were concerned and possibly impacted by this episode, and ensure them we will be doing whatever we can to ensure that this is not repeated,'' Mr Robertson said.
Opposition Leader John-Paul Langbroek said delivering a secure water supply was core government business but the Bligh Government had overseen a "fluoride fiasco''.

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