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Published 17/03/2022

Board of Wellington Water announces independent inquiry on fluoridation of drinking water

The Board of Wellington Water is announcing that there will be an independent inquiry into the events that resulted in two of Wellington’s water treatment plants ceasing fluoridation of drinking water.

Additionally, since Wellington Water made statements yesterday (16 March) it has come to the attention of the Board that some of the information released to media, the public and to our stakeholders was not correct.

Wellington Water indicated yesterday that fluoridation had ceased in February 2022, but the Board has since learned that fluoridation was stopped at the Te Mārua Water Treatment Plant in May 2021 and in November 2021 at the Gear Island Water Treatment Plant.

Drinking water has been, and continues to remain, safe, posing no public health risk.

“This raises serious questions for us as the Board,” says Wellington Water Board Chair Lynda Carroll. “To discover that there have been issues in the plants for such a period of time without this being brought to our attention, and then to find out that there has been a failure to release accurate timelines and information that ought to give our stakeholders assurance is disappointing to say the least.”

“We have scoped the inquiry ahead of developing its terms of reference,” says Lynda. “It will be to look into Wellington Water’s management of the plants; how this occurred; what we, the Board should have known; what management should have known; and what, if any, management or systemic management issues may have blocked the Board from being aware of this issue earlier.”

To ensure transparency, the terms of reference will be made public in due course.

“This is something we are digging into straight away,” says Lynda, “standing up the inquiry is a priority for us, but we should add this won’t stop us from working to get fluoride back in Wellington’s water supply as soon as possible.

We have appointed Doug Martin of Martin Jenkins to lead the inquiry.”

In line with what was released by Wellington Water yesterday, work is underway to progressively lift the levels of fluoride across all treatment plants to achieve the expected health benefits of correctly fluoridated drinking water.

Internal work already underway at Wellington Water to establish timelines, gather records and develop reporting on fluoridation levels at all facilities over the past four years, will also inform the inquiry.

The Wellington Water Committee has been informed of the independent inquiry, and supports the moves taken by the Board.

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