MARYVILLE – The manager of a Blount County water supplier says his utility will proceed with fluoridating its product, irrespective of a citizen action group’s request that a court halt the move.
Citizens for Blount County’s Future filed a lawsuit Monday afternoon in Blount County Chancery Court against the South Blount County Utility District board of commissioners and the district manager, asking that the court issue a temporary injunction against the utility’s introducing fluoride into the water. Also listed as plaintiffs are “14,000 John and Jane Does, representing the approximate number of water consumers” of the utility.
Henry Durant, manager of the district, said he still expects the commissioners at their regular May meeting this morning to approve the introduction of fluoride. It actually will go into the water Wednesday, he said.
He said the utility has been advised by its legal counsel to proceed unless an injunction is issued.
Thomas F. Mabry, attorney for the citizens group, said he does not “understand the urgency” of putting the fluoride in the water “when they (the commissioners) know there is pending litigation.
“They do it at their own peril.”
Mabry added that the lawsuit will go forward “regardless of whether they fluoridate the water.”
South Blount declined to introduce fluoride into its water when it completed its new water treatment plant off Calderwood Highway about four years ago. Fluoride is a widely accepted tooth decay preventive that is in most public water systems in the nation.
But it is not without its detractors, who attribute to fluoride a litany of ailments, including cancer, bone deterioration, kidney and liver problems, and more.
The suit says commissioners have not adequately researched safety aspects of fluoridation and have not communicated the possible negative effects of it to their customers. As such, the plaintiffs say, the commissioners have not fulfilled their statutory duties, placing them in violation of state law.
And the suit alludes to actions taken “in secret and behind closed doors in an effort to avoid public commentary” and that “intentionally misled the public into believing that fluoride was not to be placed in their water supply.”
The suit says the commissioners acted “in violation of state disclosure regulations and basic common decency” and that the action is “a direct result of placating the desire of County Mayor Jerry Cunningham” to introduce fluoride in South Blount water, “presumably to appease contributors to Cunningham’s political campaign at the expense of over 14,000 of Cunningham’s constituents and citizens of Blount County.”
The mayor sent the commissioners a letter earlier this year, advising them he would decline to forward to the County Commission for approval the name of any nominee to the board who would not publicly support fluoridation.
Cunningham said the charges in the suit are “blatantly false. I realize I am a public figure, but that kind of comment shows actual malice.”