Water official says complaints without basis are acts of terrorism

Photo: WKRN
Photo: WKRN

A number of Mount Pleasant residents are furious over a May 29 meeting that was supposed to address the water quality concerns they have been dealing with for months.

Instead, they feel like they've been threaten after a state water official compared them to terrorists for their complaints.

“How dare you say that to me?” said an outraged resident, Dwight Green.

During the meeting, Sherwin Smith, the Deputy Director of Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation's Division of Water Service, made some questionable remarks to the residents.

The Statewide Organizing for Community eMpowerment, a civic action group that's been working with the residents to tackle the water quality complaints, provided Nashville's News 2 with an audio recording of that meeting.

“…under federal regulations, if you make allegations against the public water supply that are unfounded, then that can be considered, under homeland security, an act of terrorism because you're trying to allege things,” said Smith.

Residents felt lost and threatened by his comments.

“They work for us. We don't work for them. And my position is if you are
not going to be on our side, what are you doing here?” said Green.

“It was no reason for Mr. Smith to act the way he did,” said another concerned resident, Joycelene Johns.

TDEC said it is looking into the matter.

“We certainly understand the concern surrounding the poor choice of words used by Mr. Smith at the May 29 meeting,” said spokeswoman Meg Lockhart.

“He regrets how he communicated in that instance. The department is working to address this issue and to provide broader customer service training for all employees,” she continued.

TDEC officials also told Nashville's News 2 they offered to test the drinking water of those concerned residents, but no one has come forward to do the sampling.

A number of residents said they were never asked such question. The residents just want this issue resolved and for those involved to be held accountable.

“If you're not going to help citizens that put you in office then get out of politics,” said Johns.

Members of Statewide Organizing for Community eMpowerment are planning to send a letter to inform Governor Bill Haslam of the “seriousness of the situation and that state officials are responding to citizens with intimidation instead of cooperation.” 

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