One soft-spoken battle between a few customers of the Cunningham Utility District in favor of fluoridating the area’s water and the Board of Directors ended Thursday night, but one citizen says the war isn’t over.

“I’m going to keep on fighting for it,” said a smiling Nadine St. John, a customer of the district after a meeting of the Board of Directors.
St. John spoke for several others in attendance Thursday in favor of the district fluoridating the water, but the board ultimately stood by an earlier decision not to do so.

Referring to handouts St. John obtained from the State of Tennessee Department of Health, she told the board that fluoride in water is safe and can help prevent tooth decay.

John M. Atkins, general manager, said he had done much research, as had the other board members, about water fluoridation.

“There’s as much stuff out there on the Internet for fluoridation as against fluoridation of water,” Atkins said. “The position of the board hasn’t changed — and all three voting members are here tonight — they have not changed their minds because of the research we’ve done.”

Atkins maintained the decision to not fluoridate the water was made because of the possible link between fluoride and cancer and the fact that fluoride is available in other ways to the public, among other reasons.

“This is not a cost issue … people are saying we’re saving beaucoups of money,” Atkins said, adding it would cost only $10,000 to $12,000 split between Cunningham and East Montgomery districts to fluoridate the water.

“Over the years (fluoride) has become available in so many different products — any commercially prepared juices, foods like chicken and toothpastes all have fluoride content,” Atkins said.

“Some people can’t afford that,” St. John said.

Atkins said agencies still hand out toothpaste with fluoride to needy families.

Atkins added that after The Leaf-Chronicle ran a story about the lack of fluoridation in the water, he said he received six calls — two for fluoridating the water, including St. John, and four against.

“Basically we see it this way — if we put (fluoride) in, you don’t have a choice,” Atkins said. “If we don’t put it in, you do have a choice.”

Atkins said if the state were to mandate the inclusion of fluoride into the water, the board would have no choice but to include it.

“The consensus is, when the EPA and the state mandates we put it back and tells us it’s safe, then we’ll put it back,” Atkins said.

St. John asked Atkins if the board would read the information she received from the state and “keep an open mind,” to which Atkins replied, “Of course, that’s what we’re here for.

“I doubt very seriously if there’s anything in there that I haven’t read from the state,” Atkins said. “But I would be glad to reread everything you give to me.”

As the board stood by their decision and moved onto other business, the few customers thanked the board for their time and left the building — St. John still with a kind smile.