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Chemical Fluoride & Our New Thurles Water Treatment Plant

Leaking Victorian Water Pipes

The lack of public information & indeed public debate regarding the Thurles Regional Water Supply Scheme paid for by tax payers & the future proposed construction of a local Water Treatment Plant, both estimated at €26 million, prompts Proinsías Barrett to ask some pertinent questions.

Proinsías writes: “It is good to see that Thurles and environs are to receive a modern water system, but I have some reservations about the motives and procedures involved.

It is only now that the Troika and IMF are in town that emphasis has been suddenly placed on water charges and centralised provision, allowing easier ‘management’ and thus easier systems of charging.

I am not completely against water metering because as I have said before, it has proven to be a disincentive to waste and the ridiculous practice of leaving a tap running during cold spells to prevent the pipes from freezing, instead of insulating pipes properly. However with the financial problems in the nation, a reasonable charge is acceptable, provided our water is crystal clean and the infrastructure remains in the public domain.

However so far indications would suggest that these conditions may not be realised.

The €10 million initial cost is obviously coming from the national coffers (Tax payers), but it seems it is impossible for tax payers and citizens (Who just may be interested.) to have any input into or to ask any questions about these projects. I know the majority of the public are possibly not concerned or care little regarding the technicalities of water provision, but some are and all are entitled to know what is planned with their money.

I visited Croatia last year for a month and travelling around its various towns and cities, I was very impressed at the cleanliness of the country and the abundant fresh tasting clean water, which all the tourist publications insisted, was absolutely safe to drink from any tap anywhere in the country, and this is a country with a Mediterranean climate and scorching summers with little rainfall.

I was puzzled. I only purchased one litre of bottled water during that month travelling, and re-filled it as I went.

The Croats were informed by their government that since public money would be used in the upgrading of the water system after the war, the public should get involved in the process. The public were asked where they believed the optimum location for treatment plants and reservoirs might be. (Bear in mind that Croatia relies heavily on tourism and its natural beauty.)

More importantly however was the question: ‘What type of treatment would be most suitable‘? Anyone with specialised scientific knowledge or just an interest in this area was encouraged by the Croatian government, to research the many treatment methods found around the world and then a shortlist was prepared and a final decision was made. (True Social Democratic governance in action.)

Local communities decided on treatment plant locations and there was a sense of community involvement and pride in the planned operation. Interestingly, the vast majority rejected fluoridation of the supply. In fact when I looked into it, all our European neighbours and the majority (90%) of British Councils have rejected the addition of the chemical fluoride to their water supply and fluoridated water emanating from treatment plants to the tap.

The Croats reasoning being, that the science behind fluoridation or fluoridation was antiquated and did not represent best practice in the 21st century. In fact one individual informed me that the first mention of fluoride been added to water supplies was in the Soviet Gulag forced labour camps of the 1930’s and later in the labour camps of the Nazis during the 1940’s, he wasn’t sure why, but mentioned something about fluoride’s effect as a pacifier, but who knows.

Why are we the last ‘eejits’ in Europe adding this bi-product of the fertiliser and aluminium industry to our water?

Back in the dark ages of the 1950’s through to the 1970’s the ‘science’ behind fluoridated drinking water was simple, ‘It’s good for teeth?’ Now that might have been in a time when few had toothbrushes and roofs and ironing boards were made from asbestos, but we know better now, have better methods, and all future decisions are no longer the preserve of just government agencies and corporations.

I asked a representative from Ireland’s EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) recently about fluoride in our drinking water and he started talking about teeth again….. in 2012.  I added as a bit of humour saying that toothpaste contains a .0% of fluoride and yet the toothpaste tube tells us ‘DO NOT SWALLOW, IF SWALLOWED ACCIDENTALLY – SEEK MEDICAL ADVICE IMMEDIATELY,’ yet we gulp down far more of the stuff by the pint daily, while research has shown that Irish teeth have not improved significantly since the 1970’s, and any improvements in the last few decades are attributed to mass ownership of toothbrushes, people quitting smoking and visiting their dentist or dental hygienist….. so why the fluoride? I cannot get an answer anywhere.

It reminds me of a scene from a sketch by our own comedian Pat Short where, in the excerpt, a younger man asks an older pal in the pub ‘Why did the chicken cross the road Billy’? and Billy replies ‘In my day you didn’t ask, the chicken simply crossed the road and that was it’!

It seems that there are political agendas in all walks of life and science, and engineering and politics are inseparable. I don’t reject science which emanates from government or multinational corporations, but I challenge its impact upon the domestic nature of environmental policy making. A ‘one size fits all’ policy of best practice and scientific recommendation is not suitable in every instance. We know the water around Thurles contains a lot of lime, as the water in Galway contains leeching from sandstone. Do we lose naturally occurring beneficial minerals in the water when we ‘treat’ it? Treated water in our homes is still packed with lime, blocking showers and kettles and narrowing pipes.

Finally, look at the bottled water industry.  A colleague remarked recently that the bottled water industry globally has lobbied fiercely to obtain ‘rights’ to access water from underground aquifers or natural reservoirs buried beneath the earth for millennia.

Big multinationals like Danone and Nestle have been muscling-in on the bottled water ‘phenomenon’ over the last decade and are hovering up, what fresh water commentators call, the ‘Champagne Water,’ which has been naturally filtered through the rock and has rested in hidden aquifers for centuries, while we the public have to drink the ground water, after it has been treated with suspect chemicals and soon to be asked to pay for the pleasure?

Incidentally, I read recently that Danone released a ‘cheap’ bottled water variant in Ireland that can be found in most supermarkets. A quick read of the label reveals that their bottled water contains fluoride, when I asked Danone about this practice and why Danone felt that the Irish consumer would benefit from fluoride in their bottled water I got silence. It eventually dawned on me that Danone, were simply filling blue plastic containers with Irish tap water which already contains fluoride, thanks to our Government and the EPA’s ‘scientific’ research, which recommends that we all be medicated by the state daily with fluoride…… ‘Because it’s good for our teeth Billy‘!  Oh man!”

Note: Water was fluoridated in large parts of the Netherlands from 1960 to 1973, when the Supreme Court of the Netherlands declared fluoridation of drinking water unauthorized. Dutch authorities had no legal basis for adding chemicals to drinking water if they did not improve the safety as such. The simple reason is that consumers cannot choose a different tap water provider. Drinking water has not been fluoridated in any part of the Netherlands since 1973.

Fluoridation has been the subject of many court cases wherein activists have sued municipalities, asserting that their rights to consent to medical treatment and due process are infringed by mandatory water fluoridation.

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