Fight against fluoride as deadline looms Protesters gather at water district to voice opposition
After trying every avenue to stop fluoride from being added to their water, several residents of Eureka Springs and Carroll County have set up a camp at Carroll Boone Water District to protest against fluoridation, which is set to begin July 15.
During last weekend's July 4 parade in Eureka Springs, protesters in dental masks marched holding signs that read, "Freedom from Fluoride," and "we the people vote no."
On July 4, protesters also created a Facebook group called Camp Clean Water, asking those who oppose the impending fluoride deadline to gather and protest peacefully at CBWD.
"We are just congregating (no overnight campers) out at the water treatment facility between now and the 15th to let them know that we disagree with the fluoridation scheduled to be added by July 15th," the Facebook post says. "The more who come and participate the better. If you are one of many who voted NOT to have fluoride added to the water supply, you should be there with a sign that says so."
Jasmine Stanley and Luis Contreras are among several residents who gathered at the site last Saturday after the parade.
On Tuesday, Contreras emailed Dr. Nate Smith, the director and state health officer of the Arkansas Department of Health, asking for a 60-day moratorium on the July 15 date to allow residents and Secure Arkansas more time to act. In the email, Contreras cited the lack of testing on "aging distribution lead and steel water pipes with lead joints," and said that "only 0.5 percent of the treated water is used to prevent cavities," indicating that there is no need for fluoride to be added to the water supply.
"My concerns are not only with fluoride but lead, bottled water and overweight kids," Contreras said in the email.
In 2011, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Beebe signed Act 197 into law mandating fluoridation for water systems supplying 5,000 people or more. Delta Dental of Arkansas, a 501c4, and Delta Dental Foundation, a 501c3, helped with funding for fluoridation equipment at the CBWD plant.
Gov. Asa Hutchinson said he doesn't think lawmakers will change their mind about fluoridation anytime soon.
"This issue was adopted by the legislature prior to my election as Governor. As Governor, I generally support more local control, but I do not believe there is a consensus in the legislature to change from the status quo," he said in an email to the Citizen. "The debate will continue and the health benefit and impact will continue to be reviewed."
Fluoridation will begin July 15 despite a final recommendation released in April by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recommending the optimal fluoride level in drinking water be significantly lowered because "Americans now have access to more sources of fluoride."
The fight against fluoridation is proving to be an uphill battle for the citizens of Eureka Springs and Carroll County but with the help of Secure Arkansas, they are vowing to continue the fight.
"Secure Arkansas is filing a lawsuit against whomever it is that doesn't have governmental immunity in the next couple of weeks hopefully," said Secure Arkansas' Crystal Harvey. "The people of Eureka Springs are not going to stop. They will hound it until you can't hound it anymore. Even if they turn the fluoride on July 15, the people won't give up. And when they win the battle, it will be interesting if fluoridation continues because Carroll-Boone doesn't want to pay back Delta Dental its money."
Jim Yates, the board chairman for CBWD, said the water district's "hands are tied" because it has to comply with the law."
"If there are people who don't want fluoride in water, they need to address the people who required the district to put fluoride in water," he said.