MARYVILLE – A staunch proponent of restoring fluoride to water provided by the South Blount County Utility District says he will be “changing tactics” in his battle.
T-Rex Ogle Jr., a Maryville computer programmer who has been at the forefront of the pro-fluoride fight, said at Tuesday’s meeting of the South Blount board that he is outraged that petitions he compiled in support of fluoridation have apparently been “flat ignored,” even misplaced or lost.
Ogle, who operates a Web site, www.fluoride4blountcounty.com, said he had collected on petitions more than 300 names of South Blount customers who want fluoride in their water and has presented them to the utility board.
In a sharp exchange with Ogle, Isom Lail, manager of the district, said he didn’t recall Ogle’s petitions.
“I don’t have them,” he said.
Ogle said the utility had “refused to listen” to 300 of its customers.
Lail countered that he “totally disagrees” with that contention, and he said the utility had received 45 calls or messages in support of fluoride and 97 against.
Following the meeting, Lail said irrespective of petitions, South Blount will acknowledge and tally only those responses that come in directly to the utility office.
Ogle, who was the only fluoride proponent to speak at the meeting, said he would contact as many of those who signed his petitions as possible and encourage them to “flood the office with phone calls.”
He added, “I refuse to give up.”
About a half-dozen opponents of fluoride also addressed the meeting, raising familiar concerns about how the substance affects bones and body organs and can promote serious disease.
Among them was Dr. Steven Watts, a Maryville chiropractor, Linda King, a regular commenter on tax issues before the Blount County Commission, and Richard Ellison, who identified himself as a professional biologist and chemical engineer.
Ellison said his concern is that any fluoride added to the water will supplement naturally occurring concentrations of the substance, possibly leading to overexposure. He added that in his former role in “the environmental arm of the U.S. Department of the Interior” he became persuaded that fluoride is “a totally unnecessary element” and that “we don’t need it in our water.”
Robert Wilson may be reached at 865-981-9117.