An abnormally large crowd of about 25 local residents attended a meeting of the Carroll Boone Water District Board on Thursday, sharing concerns and asking questions about the proposed fluoridation of the district’s water supply.
The board took no action at the meeting in which members heard from several of the opponents present. In addition, the concerned citizens were told by board President James Yates that it would do no good to speak to him regarding the fluoride mandate; instead, he recommended that people opposed to fluoridation contact the Arkansas Department of Health and their state legislators.
The fluoride mandate passed the State Legislature in 2011 in what opponents have called a “stealth” vote with inadequate opportunity for public comment. The law requires that grant funds — not taxpayer money or user fees– should be used to add fluoridation to local water systems.
But the group providing those grants, Delta Dental Foundation, has offered CBWD only about $763,000 while the district’s engineers estimate the cost will be $1.23 million.
At the CBWD board’s regular quarterly meeting on Thursday, the small meeting room was filled over capacity with most of the visitors having to stand while listening to the proceedings that lasted about an hour and a half.
After concluding an update on the fluoridation and other business, Yates said there were too many people present to allow everyone to speak. He asked for people who represented groups to speak, and to limit the length of their comments so the entire comment period wouldn’t exceed 15 minutes.
Valerie Damon, a member of the board of directors of the Eureka Springs Farmers Market, said that local farmers don’t want to put fluoridated water on their crops as it could cause contamination.
“All organic farmers and gardeners of Carroll County are opposed to fluoride in the water,” Damon said. “Their goal is to provide healthy organic food that sustains life and helps heal, not to add toxins to the food and increase harm.”
Teresa Matthews of Harrison spoke about concerns that the CBWD has had no suppliers of the fluoridation chemicals willing to provide information on the toxic byproducts that can include lead, arsenic and radionuclides such as thorium.
“Why will no one in the U.S. tell you what is in this product?” Matthews asked. “That is because this is toxic waste from the aluminum industry, and the industry would rather make money selling it to poison people rather than pay for proper disposal of this toxic waste.”
A memo provided to board members by James Allison, CBWD office manager, confirms that to date the district has received no response from any suppliers of fluoride about what contaminants are in the product ten months after that information was requested.
“We continue to be concerned that no supplier or manufacturer will furnish us with the information required under the rules of National Science Foundation / American National Standards Institute 60,” Allison’s memo stated. “Numerous citizens, especially from Eureka, are asking us what contaminants beside fluoride are contained in the products, and that information is required by the NSF in order to approve the manufacturer’s product. I do not believe we are being unreasonable in asking for that information and besides, it is in the ADH statues that we follow NSF 60.”
Matthews also appealed to the board to delay implementation of the mandate while citizens work on getting the legislation overturned.
Lisa Price-Backs of Berryville, who works with the group Secure Arkansas that is leading a grassroots campaign to overturn the fluoride mandate, said country-of-origin labeling is needed on the fluoridation chemicals.
She said the chemicals aren’t even available in the U.S. anymore, and they are primarily coming from China — a country that has had major problems with toxic contamination of consumer products — and Japan.
Backs also asked, “Why are we medicating so many for so few?” She said while fluoride is claimed to benefit children, it has no benefits for adults. And Secure Arkansas has raised concerns about health effects to adults including hypothyroidism, cardiovascular disease and bone fractures.
Another speaker said there is no way to control the amount of fluoride consumed by users of the water system. One person may drink two glasses of water per day, and another a gallon. He also said that controlling the amount of fluoride put in the water is far more difficult than acknowledged.
“If you read the warning label on toothpaste with fluoride, using the toothpaste alone can put kids at their limit for fluoride for a day,” he said. “It is an unknown variable how much fluoride my family will consume if this is added to the water.”
Scott Thompson of Eureka Springs had read reports that few people had been contacting the board members regarding fluoride. Thompson said that since Eureka had twice voted down fluoridation, there was an assumption that the board knew Eureka Springs was opposed to fluoridation.
Natalie Mannering, also a resident of Eureka Springs, said recent research has shown there is already a tremendous amount of fluoride in foods. That can lead to people getting too much fluoride, which can lead to health problems including hypothyroidism, she said.
Mannering noted that she is a disabled senior with hypothyroidism, a condition that can be worsened by fluoride intake. She added that many people with hypothyroidism might not even be aware they need to avoid fluoridated water as about half of the estimated 27 million Americans with hypothyroidism are not aware they have the disease, which is painful and causes symptoms similar to chronic fatigue and fibromyalgia.
Holly Winger, a Eureka resident who worked on earlier campaign to get Eureka to vote down fluoridation and who has lobbied the State Legislature in opposition to fluoride mandates, said that even the American Dental Association has admitted that ingesting fluoride doesn’t help with tooth decay. It must be applied topically.
In the board discussion of fluoride, Brad Hammond, representing the board’s engineering company, McGoodwin, Williams & Yates, said they have continued to discuss with Delta Denatl Foundation the estimated costs of the equipment and buildings needed to add fluoridation. Hammond confirmed that the cost estimates were accurate.
“We still feel our cost estimate is good,” Hammond said. “We believe we are in the ballpark.”
He added that they are hoping for a resolution quickly to the issue of the funding shortfall.
If CBWD accepts the DDF grant, it has 18 months to put fluoride into the water or face losing the grant funds. DDF pays on percent completed, meaning that the CBWD would have to pay for the work first and then be reimbursed — potentially creating cash flow issues. And if fluoridation was instituted and then discontinued for any reason in the next ten years, CBWD would be required to pay back the grant funds on a prorated basis.
At the end of the meeting, when Yates said that the fluoridation issue is being controlled by ADH, and that the board can’t address the residents’ concerns, people in the audience appeared to be disappointed.
One participant, Sheila McFadden, made a sweeping gesture and asked: “Did I just see the buck being passed?”