Madison County justices of the peace agreed informally during the monthly Madison County Quorum Court meeting on Monday that the fluoridation of water – which is currently required by state law – should be left to voters within their water districts.
Per Act 197 of 2011, water districts in Arkansas are required to inject fluoride into their water systems or face heavy fines. Currently, the Madison County Regional Water District – which provides water to both the Huntsville Water Department and the Madison County Water Facilities Board – is one of the last holdouts to resist the act, and has filed a lawsuit against the Arkansas Department of Health and a number of officials associated with the act.
Compliance with the statute is not required until funding outside of the water system is available to pay the capital start-up costs for fluoridation equipment According to the Arkansas Department of Health’s website, the Delta Dental of Arkansas Foundation pledged up to $20 million over a five-year period to fund the installation of fluoridation equipment in public water systems.
Sen. Bryan King (R-Green Forest) has been vocal against the act in the past, stating in previous interviews that he believed the verbiage in the act – particularly, sections that state if a water district receives grant funding from Delta Dental, but the act is overturned, the districts will still be contractually obligated to inject fluoride into their water for 10 years, per the grant.
Senate Bill 299, filed by King this legislative session, looked to amend the law “and to allow voters to elect ‘for’ or ‘against’ water fluoridation.” On Tuesday, that bill failed.
The bill stated that “customers of a public water system shall have the option to hold an election of the qualified electors of the public water system to determine whether or not the public water system shall fluoridate the water,” and that the election may be called by a majority vote of the board of directors of the public water system or a petition signed by at least 10 percent of the qualified electors in the public water system.
The bill adds that the election would be held at the next general election.