Even if there is something in the water, Tennessee residents might want to avoid complaining.
A Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation deputy director recently warned a group of residents that a complaint about water quality could viewed as an “act of terrorism.”
“We take water quality very seriously. Very, very seriously,” said Sherwin Smith, deputy director of TDEC’s Division of Water Resources. “But you need to make sure that when you make water quality complaints you have a basis, because federally, if there’s no water quality issues, that can be considered under Homeland Security an act of terrorism.”
Smith made his comments after residents have complained to the state for months, saying some children had become ill from drinking the water. His remarks were captured in an audio recording from a public meeting. Afterwards, the TDEC made it clear he was unavailable for comment.
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“In terms of the comments made by a member of the Water Resources Division at the meeting, we are just receiving the information and looking into this on our end,” spokeswoman Meg Lockhart said. “The department would like to fully assess what was said in the meeting. I am told that the meeting was far longer than the audio clip provided by SOCM and that Mr. Smith actually clarified his remarks. But again, we are looking into it.”
At least one person saw Smith’s comments as an attempt to silence complaints, The Tennessean reported.
“I think it’s just to quash us complicating life for them,” said Brad Wright.
Joycelene Johns, 68, will keep on drinking the water even though she isn’t pleased with what Smith had to say.
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“I’ll drink it,” she said, “but I pray before the first sip.” She added: “I was sitting there with my mouth open. I couldn’t believe he was saying that.”