MARYVILLE – Officials of Blount County’s Community Health Initiative are calling on customers served by the South Blount County Utility District to express their views about the district’s decision to eliminate fluoride from the water it delivers.

Laura Harrill, director of community outreach for Blount Memorial Hospital and facilitator of the health initiative, said the organization is looking to gauge public response to the fluoridation decision and to encourage residents to make the commissioners aware of how they feel.

Micky Roberts, district director of the Blount & Sevier County Health Department, says he will be in attendance, even though today – Veterans Day – is a holiday for his office.

Roberts will speak, he says, “as a public health officer with the backing of the Centers for Disease Control (and Prevention), the National Institutes of Health and the Tennessee Department of Health.”

He said his office stands in support of fluoridation based on “proven public health science that fluoride prevents cavities in children.”

“Anybody who drinks this water and has children should be prepared for higher dental bills” if there is no fluoride in the water.

Opponents of fluoridation say long-term ingestion of fluoridated water has adverse effects on bones and internal organs and add that only topical application of fluoride is safe and effective against tooth decay.

Dr. Mike Garrett, regional dental director for the East Tennessee Regional Health Office, said he also will be in attendance on what was supposed to be a holiday. He said, however, that he does not have specific plans to address the board of commissioners.

South Blount eliminated fluoride from the water it provides when its new $16 million water treatment plant went on line last summer. The commissioners – Bob Herron, Virginia Morton and Tom Abbott – approved the nonfluoridation decision, based on a recommendation by utility district manager Isom Lail and plant manager Henry Durant.

The only notification to customers apparently was a notation in the district’s periodic Water Quality Report issued in late May that fluoridation would end July.