WESTERN GROVE — A meeting about mandated fluoridation has left several dozen water customers boiling mad.
The monthly meeting of the Ozark Mountain Regional Public Water Authority, which was held at Western Grove City Hall, featured a presentation on the topic by representatives from the Arkansas Department of Health. The presentation did not go over well with the water system officials and customers.
“We don’t want this crap,” said Ed Manor of the Mockingbird Hill Water System. “We don’t think it’s healthy. We don’t want lead in the water, and that’s what fluoride is.”
The water authority serves over 20,000 people in four counties. It is made up of 18 local water systems. The authority’s water supply is Bull Shoals Lake.
Arkansas Act 197 mandated fluoridation of water districts supplying water to 5,000 or more people.
“There are some laws that are not good,” said board chairman Andy Anderson. “The British probably thought that taxing tea was a good idea.”
Others at the meeting gave a more ominous opinion of fluoridation.
“Don’t forget Hitler used it in his concentration camps to keep them docile,” said a young man at the back of the room.
Without exception, each water system’s representative said their customers did not want fluoridation.
“If this had been advertised like this when it was going in,” Bill Braden of the Deer water system said, “it would have been a deal breaker.”
Presenting the Department of Health’s position were Jeff Stone, director of engineering; Lindy Bollen, director of the Office of Oral Health; and Glen Greenway, engineer for the Fluoridation Program.
Stone said the decision to fluoridate water had not been discussed when the water authority’s board was being formed.
In response to a question from Anderson, Stone said that monitoring for fluoride is done at a system’s distribution center. He insisted that there was not much differentiation between the level at the distribution center and at other points along the line.
According to Stone, the idea of lead in fluoride is false. The Health Department does monitor for lead in people’s homes, he added.
“We have never had a case in this state where chemicals added to water contain lead,” Stone said.
Anderson rebutted that statement, saying there was no source of fluoride that doesn’t contain lead.
Anderson said he had asked Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson to exempt the Ozark Mountain Water Authority from the act.
When asked what would happen if the board refused to comply with the law, Stone said it would probably be called to a hearing. A possible fine of $500 a week could eventually result. Stone went on to say that the Watson Chapel water system is currently going through a hearing.
Stone said the Health Department’s finding were based on studies done by groups that included the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). In over 70 years of fluoridation, he said, it has been found to be safe and effective.
“I know not everyone accepts this,” Stone said, “but these are the indications.”
Wesley Smith of the South Mountain water system in Searcy County said that most pediatricians recommend that young mothers not mix baby formula with fluoridated water. He had two new grandchildren, and he wanted to know the opinion of the Health Department representatives.
Winton McInnis of the Mockingbird Hill water system then interjected.
“Are you aware the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) is negative on fluoride?” he asked the Health Department people.
After some hedging and prompted by Anderson’s insistence that Smith’s question be answered, Bollen said, “As far as I know, it’s fine.”
The Health Department representatives left to go back to Little Rock, but the discussion in Western Grove continued.
Anderson appealed to the audience, saying that if the board elected not to comply with the fluoridation law, all entities within the system had to be willing to stick together and, if necessary, fund the board in legal battles.
“We’re not intimidated,” McInnis said.
State Rep. David Branscum (R-Marshall) was at the meeting. He said he had voted against the fluoridation bill. He went on to say that he had also supported a bill in the last legislative session that would have given each water system entity the choice of fluoridating or not. The bill had passed the House, Branscum said, but not the Senate. He planned to re-introduce the bill in the 2017 session.
“It’s the city boys we’re fighting,” Branscum said.
He recalled that his father served in the state legislature in the early 1950s.
“He always said it was the country boys versus the city boys,” Branscum said. “Things haven’t changed.”
Branscum at one point got sarcastic.
“This is a great thing for the children!” he said in a mocking tone. “It’s always about the children, isn’t it? That’s a bunch of bull.”
According to Anderson, other groups should be against the fluoridation. He explained that 99.5 percent of water produced is used for things other than human consumption, and it goes down the drain. Much of the water from the Ozark Mountain system drains into the Buffalo River, with the fluoride undiminished.
“All the environmental people should be up on their soap boxes,” Anderson said.
A comment from the audience drew laughter.
“I wonder if we can get the Park Service away from the C&H Hog Farm long enough to address this,” a man said.
Manor expressed his resoluteness.
“I was serious,” he said. “If they want to run the damn thing, take it. If we’re forced to, I’ll resign. We have to stick together.”
More about Fluoride
- ARTICLE: HB1355 rots in Senate; Anti-fluoride bill fails yet again
- ARTICLE: Watch fluoride for babies; HB 1355 on Senate committee schedule again
- ARTICLE: HB 1355 decays in Senate committee; Anti-fluoride bill flowed through House
- ARTICLE: Harrison bought 100M gallons of water in August; record summer for Carroll-Boone