MARYVILLE – Opponents of reintroducing fluoride into South Blount County Utility District water say they are considering suing to prevent the action, which is planned in about a week.
But the manager of the district says the utility is moving ahead with putting fluoride back in its 14,000 customers’ water, probably immediately after next week’s regular meeting of the district’s board of commissioners.
The fluoridation controversy arose a few years back when South Blount built a new water plant off Calderwood Highway and announced that it would not put the chemical, widely accepted as a tooth decay preventive, in the water it provided.
Public health and government officials and almost all the Blount County dental community have decried the decision.
Earlier this year, County Mayor Jerry Cunningham notified the commissioners he would not submit to the County Commission for approval the name of any candidate for the South Blount board who does not support fluoridation.
Shortly thereafter, the board announced plans to begin fluoridation.
The cause has been taken up by Citizens for Blount County’s Future, which has retained Knoxville attorney Thomas F. Mabry to explore avenues to prevent the fluoridation.
On April 19, Mabry sent Cunningham, the South Blount board and several others an 11-page “Actual and Constructive Notice” that stated there has not been adequate communication to the customers about the safety and effects of hydrofluosilicic acid, a component of fluoride, and placed the utility on notice of what Mabry said was its responsibility to do so.
Henry Durant, South Blount manager, said customers have been notified in their water bills, thus satisfying the utility’s obligation in the matter.
He said South Blount’s legal team has recommended the utility proceed with its plans.
“We don’t have any choice,” Durant said, “but to do what we said we were going to do.”
He said the matter will be brought before the board at its regular May meeting Tuesday and that the introduction of the fluoride would follow immediately, possibly even that day. All the necessary devices are in place, he said.
The action, according to Mabry’s letter accompanying the notice, “potentially gives rise to ethical concerns.”
Until the new water plant opened, South Blount got its water from the Alcoa system, which fluoridates. All other Blount County water systems and the vast majority of systems in the state and nation also fluoridate.
Public health officials have hailed fluoridation as one of the most important and universally beneficial things of the past half-century, especially for children.
But others say fluoride’s potential effects have not been studied long-term and say it can cause brittle bones, cancer, kidney disease, neurological problems and other ailments.