The Ozark Mountain Public Water Authority is still waiting to see if it has to fluoridate water after a hearing last week before 14th Judicial Circuit Judge Andrew Bailey.
Arkansas Act 197 of 2011 requires all water systems with more than 5,000 customers to fluoridate water.
In 2015, the water authority appealed the state Health Department’s requirement that it also add fluoride to water. The authority sells treated water to 18 water systems, so it maintains it doesn’t have 5,000 customers. In addition, none of those individual systems have 5,000 or more customers.
After being turned down in the initial appeal, the water authority filed suit against the Health Department asking the court to set aside the Health Department mandate.
The authority also maintains that fluoride is known to have adverse health effects and that it leaches lead and heavy metals from pipes, which also causes damage.
In court last week, Little Rock Lawyer Bruce Tidwell representing the authority told Judge Bailey that those latter issues weren’t before the court that day.
Instead, Tidwell said the water authority was simply challenging the Health Department’s definition of the water authority being a public water system.
Tidwell said all 18 systems served by the water authority have their own master meters and buy water from the authority. They then become the public water systems.
In fact, Tidwell said, the water authority meets the definition of a wholesale water provider under federal regulations.
Assistant Attorney General Vincent P. France representing the Health Department argued that a representative of the water authority admitted during the initial appeal process before the Health Department that the authority is licensed as a public water system.
The water authority sells finished water that requires no further treatment and is made for human consumption. France said the authority supplies most water in Newton County, so just the population of that county would nearly meet the 5,000 population threshold to require fluoridation.
Tidwell had argued that the Health Department’s definition of the authority as a consecutive system was erroneous because the authority has no service connections. The other systems do, so they would meet the consecutive system definition.
But Reginald Rogers, Health Department deputy general counsel, argued that Arkansas is a geographically complicated state. As such, the Health Department’s definition was designed to emcompass all such water systems.
Judge Bailey asked Rogers if this was the first such case the Health Department has argued. Rogers said there has already been another case in Madison County where the court ruled for the Health Department.
Bailey told the parties he would take their arguments under advisement and would issue a ruling sometime soon.
No such ruling had been entered in the case as of Monday afternoon.