Hiawassee mayor responds to county’s exclusion from fluoride vote

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Hiawassee fluoride

HIAWASSEE, Ga. – As previously reported by FYN, Towns County voters will not have a say as to whether fluoride is added to the City of Hiawassee’s water supply. The decision will lie solely in the hands of Hiawassee voters due to a lack of signatures collected from citizens to place the issue on the county ballot.

Click to read: Citizens, activists react to inability to vote on fluoride

Hiawassee Mayor Liz Ordiales responded to the contested issue on Saturday, March 7.

“In April of 2019, EPD during their annual inspection of our Water Treatment Plant asked why The City’s water system was not being fed fluoride,” Ordiales stated in an email. “After much research, there was documentation dating back to 1983 that showed a petition was received that substantiated that fluoride NOT be added to the system.  EPD stated that there should have also been a referendum and an ordinance passed for that effort to be complete.  The second part of that process was not done.  Since the City is the managing operator for the Water Treatment Plant, it was determined that there only need to be 10% of the citizens that voted in past election that needed to sign the petition to allow for a referendum and a ballot vote.  Those signatures were obtained by Corbin McClain [sic] and were submitted to the Elections board in September 2019.  All parties were under the impression that all water users, City and County, were to be included in the vote.  We are now being told that since the signatures were for the City jurisdiction, that only the City voters would have the opportunity to vote on this matter.  That news was discovered this past week.  The May 19th ballot will contain the questions…’Should the City of Hiawassee add fluoride to the City’s water system? (Yes or No)’.”

FYN contacted McLain, the Towns County resident who volunteered to collect the petition signatures to place the issue on the May ballot. McLain stated that she was instructed by Mayor Ordiales to garner signatures solely from city citizens, purportedly based on information received from the EPD.

Hiawassee fluoride

A 2019 letter addressed to Mayor Ordiales from the EPD.

The EPD, however, released the following statement to FYN last week: “The City of Hiawassee and Towns County, under the 2018 Wholesale Water Agreement provided to EPD, each have a right to the finished water produced by the Hiawassee Water System (HWS); HWS gets about 55 percent and the Towns County Water and Sewer Authority (TCWSA) about 45 percent,” Kevin Chambers, EPD Director of Communications, said. “Based on that agreement, EPD advised that the TCWSA and HWS are considered one system for purposes of O.C.G.A. 12-5-175 and that all water system users should be allowed to petition for and vote in any referendum.”

Feedback from county citizens on the inability to weigh-in on the matter proved swift as Hiawassee water consumers outside of the city limits continue to make their thoughts known via social media.

Citizens, activists react to inability to vote on fluoride

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Hiawassee Fluoride

HIAWASSEE, Ga. – Negative public feedback emerged following FYN’s report stating that Towns County citizens will not have a say on the potential addition of fluoride to their water. The controversial issue was expected to go before both county and city voters on the May 19 ballot due to many county residents consuming water from the City of Hiawassee’s supply. The news was initially announced via Towns County Board of Elections Chair Janet Olivia on March 3, with Olivia describing the change as government “miscommunication.”

Click to read: County citizens not permitted to vote on water fluoridation

FYN spoke with Towns County attorney Robb Kiker, March 5. Kiker explained that because only city residents signed a 2019 circulated petition to place the fluoride referendum on the ballot, county electors are not permitted to participate in the decision. Additionally, Kiker stated that a city cannot call for a countywide referendum.  FYN contacted Corbin McLain, the county resident who was tasked with collecting the signatures for the City of Hiawassee last summer. McLain stated that she was instructed by Hiawassee Mayor Liz Ordiales. per the Environmental Protection Divison (EPD), to solely garner city support for the ballot referendum. A total of 35 signatures were submitted to the Towns County Board of Elections, 10-percent of the Hiawassee citizens who voted in the last election, an amount mandated by the EPD. In a letter obtained by FYN, Georgia EPD relayed to Mayor Ordiales last year that both city and county citizens should vote on the measure, considering that Towns County residents receive City of Hiawassee water, per instruction from the State Attorney’s Office.

“We were under the impression that all voters would have the opportunity to cast their opinion on this matter,” Mayor Ordiales told FYN on March 5. “At this time, our attorneys, both County and City, are in touch with the State to determine how to proceed.”

Ordiales added that an update will be provided once a resolution is received from the EPD. FYN contacted several Hiawassee City Council members who expressed that county voters should have a say in the matter and that they were under the full assumption that would be the case.

FYN discussed the matter with Towns County Commissioner Cliff Bradshaw on numerous occasions throughout the past year, with Bradshaw consistently expecting a countywide vote to take place this spring.”I was surprised to hear the news,”Bradshaw said earlier this week. “I was led to believe that both city and county voters would decide on whether to add fluoride.”

Citizens opposing fluoridation of the local water supply have since launched a Facebook page to draw attention to the contested issue. While some proponents of fluoridation list the dental benefits attributed to the additive, critics claim that the dangers outweigh the good.

“The Fluoride Action Network (FAN) has documented hundreds of published, peer-reviewed studies finding evidence of fluoride’s harms,” FAN Chair Rick North told FYN on Thursday. “Many have been funded by the National Institutes of Health and have found that levels in fluoridated water are linked to significantly lower IQs and higher ADHD rates in children. Many organizations that once endorsed fluoridation have pulled back and no longer take a position, including the Alzheimer’s Association, National Down Syndrome Society, National Down Syndrome Congress, National Kidney Fund and Center for Science in the Public Interest. It’s actually one of the most widely rejected health interventions in the world, opposed by most nations, including nearly all in Europe, and 95% of the world’s population. Fluoride is available topically in toothpaste if people want it. But FAN believes that no one should be forced to ingest a drug they oppose through drinking water, taking away their freedom of choice.”

Dr. Johnny Johnson Jr., a pediatric dentist and President of the American Fluoridation Society, offered support for fluoridation in an email to FYN.

“Fluoridation has been identified as the most practical and cost-effective method of delivering fluoride to all members of a community, regardless of age, education, or income,” Johnson said in part. “These advantages, combined with fluoridation’s contribution to dramatic declines in both the prevalence and severity of tooth decay, led the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to name water fluoridation one of ten great public health achievements of the 20th century. I work with the non-profit, all-volunteer, unpaid group of healthcare providers of the American Fluoridation Society.  Our work is to disseminate evidence-based credible science on water fluoridation.  We do not accept a single penny for our efforts.  The opponents to water fluoridation have scared pregnant moms and used fear-invoking pseudoscience to cause people to question water fluoridation. We work to defend and protect the health, safety, and well-being of our countries families.”

FYN will continue to follow developments on the fluoride referendum leading up to the May 19 General Primary.

County citizens not permitted to vote on water fluoridation

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Hiawassee fluoride

HIAWASSEE, Ga. – According to the Towns County Board of Elections and Registration, Towns County voters will not have a say on the May ballot as to whether fluoride will be added to the City of Hiawassee’s water supply. Towns County Board of Elections Chair Janet Olivia delivered the news to FYN on Tuesday, March 3, stating that a municipality is not authorized to call for a ballot referendum that includes input from county voters.

Although many county residents and businesses receive water through the City of Hiawassee, according to Olivia – who stated that the elections office consulted with Towns County Attorney Robb Kiker on the matter – the fluoridation decision will be determined solely by voters residing within Hiawassee city limits.

Click to read: Citizens to decide water fluoridation on May ballot

FYN contacted the City of Hiawassee and Towns County government for clarification on the matter, as both entities were seemingly under the impression that both city and county citizens would vote on the controversial topic of fluoridation.

FYN is awaiting additional information from Hiawassee City Attorney Thomas Mitchell and Towns County Attorney Robb Kiker at this time.

On March 4, FYN contacted the Georgia Environmental Protection Division (EPD) who recommended last year that both city and county citizens vote on the issue. “The City of Hiawassee and Towns County, under the 2018 Wholesale Water Agreement provided to EPD, each have a right to the finished water produced by the Hiawassee Water System (HWS); HWS gets about 55 percent and the Towns County Water and Sewer Authority (TCWSA) about 45 percent,” Kevin Chambers, EPD Director of Communications, said. “Based on that agreement, EPD advised that the TCWSA and HWS are considered one system for purposes of O.C.G.A. 12-5-175 and that all water system users should be allowed to petition for and vote in any referendum.”

Continue to follow FYN for updates on the May 19 fluoride referendum.

Citizens to decide water fluoridation on May ballot

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Towns County fluoride

HIAWASSEE, Ga.- Towns County residents will be given an option on the General Primary ballot, May 19, regarding the addition of fluoride to the City of Hiawassee water supply. A petition opposing the addition of fluoride was circulated in the community in 2019, garnering enough signatures to place the decision on the ballot for both Hiawassee and Towns County consumers. According to Hiawassee City Hall, 35 citizens signed the circulated petition, enough to advance the referendum.

The City of Hiawassee received notice in early 2019 from the Georgia Environmental Protection Division (EPD) that the mineral has not been an additive in the water supply for decades.

“During the routine inspection, it was discovered that the Hiawassee Water System did not add fluoride as a treatment process,” EPD Environmental Compliance Specialist Alisha Bailey wrote in an email obtained by FYN. “According to the current ORC, Mr. Randall Thomas, Hiawassee WTP has not treated the water with fluoride in over 20 years. All potable water sources must be fluoridated, according to the Rules for Safe Drinking Water 391-3-5-.16 Fluoridation. Amended. In certain cases, some water systems had received a waiver from the state or there was a vote within the board of the water system as to not add fluoride to the drinking water.”

Hiawassee Mayor Liz Ordiales responded, informing EPD that a vote to reject local fluoridation had taken place 36 years prior. Ordiales included a copy of city council minutes from 1983 as evidence.

FYN reported public opposition to fluoridation after Fluoride Action Network published FYN’s initial report on the city’s intent. According to its mission statement, “Fluoride Action Network seeks to broaden awareness among citizens, scientists, and policymakers on the toxicity of fluoride compounds. FAN provides comprehensive and up-to-date information and remains vigilant in monitoring government agency actions that impact the public’s exposure to fluoride.”

Fluoride is the ionic form of fluorine, the thirteenth most abundant element in the earth’s crust. It is released into the environment naturally in both water and air. Its concentration in water is variable. Water is the major dietary source of fluoride. The variability in water content explains much of the variability in total fluoride intake. Other important sources of fluoride are tea, seafood that contains edible bones or shells, medicinal supplements, and fluoridated toothpaste. Fluoride compounds are also produced by some industrial processes that use the mineral apatite, a mixture of calcium phosphate compounds. Dietary fluoride is absorbed rapidly in the stomach and small intestine. One-quarter to one-third of the absorbed fluoride is taken up into calcified tissues, whereas the rest is lost in the urine. In bone and teeth, fluoride can displace hydroxyl ions from hydroxyapatite to produce fluorapatite or fluorohydroxyapatite. About 99% of total body fluoride is contained in bones and teeth, and the amount steadily increases during life. The recommended intake for fluoride is expressed as an adequate intake rather than recommended dietary allowance, because of the limited data available to determine the population needs.

The adequate intake for fluoride is 0.7 mg daily for toddlers, rising to 3 mg daily for adult women and 4 mg daily for adult men. It remains unclear whether fluoride is truly essential, although fluoride may have some beneficial effects. Once taken up into bone, fluoride appears to increase osteoblast activity and bone density, especially in the lumbar spine. Fluoride has been suggested as a therapy for osteoporosis since the 1960s, but despite producing denser bone, fracture risk is not reduced. Indeed, there is some evidence that nonvertebral fractures may be increased. The only known association with low fluoride intake is the risk of dental caries, acting through both pre-eruptive and post-eruptive mechanisms. The American Dental Association strongly supports fluoridation of community drinking water supplies; however, strong contradictory opinions also are held.

Starting in 1962, the United States Public Health Service recommended that public water supplies contain between 0.7 and 1.2 milligrams of fluoride per liter (mg/L) of drinking water to help prevent tooth decay.

This recommendation was updated in 2015 to a fluoride level of 0.7 mg/L, The change was made in part to account for the fact that people now get more fluoride from other sources than in the past. Natural drinking water sources in the US have an average fluoride level of about 0.2 mg/L, although in some areas it can be much higher.

 

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