[Editor’s Note: Alderman David Mitchell was denied being allowed allotted time at a meeting March 14 in Little Rock despite arriving early and being signed up. “They went ahead and did the vote without allowing me to speak,” Mitchell said. “I am so angry. I have eight hours of driving in and didn’t get to talk. I was signed up as the third one to speak and somewhere along the line, they changed the order of speakers.” The committee broke off hearing more testimony and voted against allowing local control of fluoridation. Below is the testimony that Mitchell prepared and was not allowed to give. Sen. Bryan King plans to amend the bill and resubmit it before the legislature adjourns April 21.]
Eureka Springs Alderman David Mitchell was to give testimony in Little Rock at a hearing of the Senate City, County and Local Affairs Committee on Tuesday, March 14, to discuss Senate Bill 299 introduced by Sen. Bryan King [R–Green Forest] that would allow decisions about fluoridation of public water supplies to be determined locally.
The bill filed titled: “An Act To Amend the Law Concerning Water Districts; To Allow Voters to Elect ‘For’ and ‘Against’ Water Fluoridation” would allow either local water boards or voters to decide to fluoridate. If a water board decided to fluoridate, a petition could be signed by ten percent of voters in the water district to put the issue to a vote. Currently the state mandates that all public water systems serving more than 5,000 people must fluoridate water.
The bill has to pass out of committee to be considered by the entire Senate. If it passes the Senate, it is expected to have a good chance in the House, which approved a similar bill allowing local control of fluoridation two years ago.
Testimony Mitchell gave at the hearing:
“My name is David Mitchell and I am currently serving my third term as a City Alderman for the City of Eureka Springs. I am a retired hospital administrator/registered nurse with 43 years of service in health care. I am here to speak briefly about the topic of fluoride and local option as to why Eureka Springs and its citizens believe that decisions about what additives put in our drinking water should be made at the local level.
“First, local control. President Thomas Jefferson said, ‘The government closest to the people serves them best.’ Democracy is best served by allowing local citizens to determine how they will be governed.
“All communities across Arkansas are not the same. Some are rural, some urban, some agricultural and others like Eureka Springs have a tourism-based economy.
“Residents of Eureka Springs do not need a top-down edict from our state government to tell us what is best. Eurekans are a well-educated, informed group and know what is best for us. Eureka Springs has one of the highest number of Masters/PhDs of any city in the state at 12 percent of the population. We are requesting that you allow the citizens of Eureka Springs and the Carroll Boone Water District to have local control of fluoridation of our water supply.
“In Eureka Springs, residents have opposed fluoride for approximately 30 years before a state mandate was passed requiring all water districts with more than 5,000 customers to fluoridate their water. Eureka Springs has voted against fluoridation several times in years past and that includes a referendum put to the voters as well as a resolution passed by the Eureka Springs City Council in 2015.
“Some of our state’s largest cities have voted against fluoridation. Fort Smith, Hot Springs and Mountain View have voted against it twice. Other cities that have voted against it include Ashdown, Sulfur Rock and Texarkana.
“One way that Eureka Springs is different from some other cities in the state is that we are a Victorian Village in the Ozark Mountains founded well over a hundred years ago. Our homes and businesses are at risk for high levels of lead in our drinking water because of existing old lead water pipes. I personally discovered that I had lead pipes at my circa 1883 home while doing a renovation in 2010.
“Fluoridation chemicals can increase lead leaching from old pipes. Some cities in Missouri have discontinued water fluoridation because it corroded their pipes.
“Councilman Michael France of Waynesville, Mo., said fluoridation wasn’t even on their city’s agenda until an employee of the city’s water department invited France down to one of the town’s well houses, where the fluorosilicate acid is injected into the water.
“France said, ‘When it’s eating your pipes and scouring out the concrete on your well house floors, that tells you that it’s pretty tough stuff.’
“Waynesville is the 11th Missouri town to stop water fluoridation in the past 16 years. Missouri cities Waynesville, Buffalo, Forsyth and Pevely, all mentioned damages to city equipment and infrastructure when they decided to cease fluoridation.
“If a substance corrodes water pipes, do you really want to be drinking it?
“Why are Missouri towns given the autonomy to decide whether to fluoridate while Arkansas residents are denied the same rights?
“After the Carroll Boone Water District was forced to fluoridate, the city of Harrison experienced higher levels of lead leaching that put it out of compliance with lead in drinking water. Because of that, Harrison has had to spend additional money to combat corrosion.”
[Holding up empty container of fluoridation chemicals]. “This is an empty bag of the fluoride chemicals used by the Carroll Boone Water District. I want to point out the skull and crossbones clearly evident on this bag.
“Note that on the bag it says: Toxic if swallowed. Toxic if in contact with skin. Toxic if inhaled.
“Why are we putting such a dangerous product in our drinking water? In fact, a very small amount of this dry chemical can kill a worker.
“When disposing of this sack it is recommended to: Dispose of this material and its container at a special hazardous waste collection point. Yet when contacted by the state, Carroll Boone Water was told to rinse out the bags and put them in a regular garbage dumpster.
“This bag has the plastic liner taken out and was sanitized before I brought it here as a visual prop.
“Current research indicates Americans are being overfluoridated. There is very little contemporary evidence that has evaluated the effectiveness of water fluoridation for the prevention of caries. While many countries have discontinued fluoridation, here in the U.S., we continue to fluoridate more people than the rest of the world combined.
“I’m not asking you as committee members to be the final authority on deciding this complex and controversial subject.
“I’m just asking that you pass the bill before you out of committee so as to allow a vote of the full Senate on this issue.
“Local governments should have the option to opt out of water fluoridation if their citizens oppose it.
“Let me remind you, ‘The government closest to the people serves them best.’
“Please allow democracy to function at the local level to serve the will of the people. Let us decided if we want to put this product in our water supply or not. Please move this bill out of committee.”