BLOUNT COUNTY (WVLT) -- Did they vote with the hearts or were they forced?
That's what many residents in Blount County want to know, just weeks after the South Blount Utility District board voted to put fluoride in their water.
Upset residents took their protests to the utility board’s Thursday meeting.
They say a survey done a few years ago revealed few wanted fluoride, and they wonder if coercion from the mayor's office played a role in the decision to add it.
Their main argument is that the chemical additive that some see as good for teeth, is bad for the body.
"I don't want fluoride in my water,” said Greg Miller, one of the protestors. “I've done my research, it's poison."
Blount County Mayor Jerry Cunningham supports fluoridation, and he backs up his position by pointing to neighboring cities, such as Alcoa and Maryville, who have it
"You don't see any people running around with all the manifestations that these scare groups seem to be saying it does," he said.
The mayor’s office has received many calls about fluoride, and after not adding it for years, after building a new water treatment plant, South Blount recently decided to do so.
But what was behind the change of heart?
Mayor Cunningham says the utility district finally made the right choice, but board members were given a letter by the mayor before the vote that strongly urged them to start putting fluoride in the water.
"If our appointment was to be confirmed or reaffirmed, then we had to agree with fluoridation," said Marshall Hurst, a board member.
"It was a request from the mayor, and we responded to his request,” said Virginia Morton, another board member. “No, there was no public input."
The board made no immediate decision, but protesters say they'll march on.
"We need to fight this issue and I'm hoping the mayor will reconsider,” said Linda King, a protester.
Unless something changes, fluoride is expected to go into the county's water system next month.