While a group of citizens who staged a protest Thursday against South Blount County Utility District’s recent decision to begin water fluoridation had their voices heard, it’s apparently not going to change anything.
The utility’s board of directors, at the request of Blount
County Mayor Jerry Cunningham, voted Jan. 2 to begin fluoridation of the district’s water system as soon as possible. The addition of fluoride to the water supply, a procedure to reduce dental cavities that is in widespread use around the country, has been the subject of controversy since the SBCUD board voted not to fluoridate the water when the district opened its new plant in July 2004.
Linda King, of the Citizens for Blount County’s Future, took her concerns about the safety of fluoride to the SBCUD Board of Directors during its Thursday meeting, then led a protest in front of the courthouse.
“It’s a toxic substance,” she said. “We shouldn’t be forced to ingest (something like) that in our bodies. This is not the end of it. We’ll do whatever it takes because we don’t think Jerry Cunningham should choose for the whole community.”
Still, utility spokeswoman Stacie Keller said nothing has changed, despite the protest.
“We understand they’re upset,” Keller said. “It’s a regrettable thing. It’s hard. We want to please everybody, but in this situation we’re not able to. We understand (King’s) concerns and feelings, but at this point we’re still going to move forward with fluoridation.”
For his part, Cunningham said he was listening to the will of the public when he became involved.
“The board voted to implement fluoride (beginning) the first of March,” he said. “I’m comfortable with that decision. It’s the right thing. The vast majority of input we’ve received is from subscribers wanting fluoride. All studies of any substance corroborate that fluoridation is a good thing … to blame everything from athlete’s foot to earache without any backup medical or dental study, other than something pulled off the Internet by some unheard-of doctor is not conclusive proof.”
Cunningham said Maryville and Alcoa have fluoridated their water supplies for years without any complaints of health problems.
“I fully support (the citizen group’s) right to voice their opinion and their right to protest and picket, but I was put here to make decisions and make appointments. That’s what the law says I’m supposed to do. You can’t please all the people all the time. You have to do what your conscience dictates in the best interest of the health and welfare of the population.”