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The events of March 29 went pretty much as Andy Anderson expected.

Anderson, the chairman of the Ozark Mountain Regional Public Water Authority board of directors, and other water authority officials on that day appeared in Little Rock before the Arkansas Department of Health (ADH) Administrative Board.

Anderson and the others were told that they would have to comply with Act 197, which mandates fluoridation of water systems with over 5,000 customers. Water authority officials indicated they did not intend to fluoridate, maintaining that the law did not pertain to them.

The ADH had requested a decision by Jan. 1, but at its December meeting, the authority board had voted to take the issue to court. The water authority’s big argument is that it doesn’t have 5,000 customers. It only has 18, the number of local water systems that buy from the authority. Each of those water systems, in turn, do not have 5,000 customers.

Anderson, in a phone interview, said a panel of ADH engineers recommended that the authority was in violation of Act 197. The water authority was directed to submit a plan for fluoridation to the ADH within 45 days. After the plan is approved, all equipment and processes must be in place by 90 days. If the authority does not comply, it will be fined $500 a week until it does comply. 

Anderson said he had wanted to talk about the dangers of fluoridation, but the administrative board “squelched” him.

Anderson went on to say that the authority’s customers and their customers have indicated that they do not want fluoride in their water. Some have even said that if fluoridation does occur, they will pull out of the water system.

The issue will now be referred to the full ADH board, probably at its July meeting. It will make a final ruling then. Anderson said he has been told he will be allowed to speak at that time.

If the ADH still rules that the authority must comply with the fluoridation act, the water authority can appeal to the Circuit Court.

The authority is being represented by the law firm of Friday, Eldredge and Clark. It contends , Anderson said, that the wording of the fluoridation law is vague and there are problems with some of the terminology.

At its December meeting, the authority board was told that legal costs would be about $12,500. It was agreed that each local water system would pay its share of the costs.

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