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Tuesday, April 16, 2024

The City of Winter Haven’s Search for an Alternative Water Supply Elicits Conspiracy

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The City of Winter Haven’s Search for an Alternative Water Supply Elicits Conspiracy

by James Coulter

The views and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of DailyRidge.com

Winter Haven City Commissioners recently approved a special warranty for a piece of property to be utilized, among other purposes, for the operational facilities of the city’s water department. However, this property acquisition may have drawn the conspiratorial ire of some concerned citizens.

At their recent meeting on Monday evening, city commissioners voted unanimously to approve a resolution accepting the special warranty deed for a piece of property that the city had acquired for $10 million.

The City Commission had approved entering into an agreement with BF 1500 LLC, a Florida limited liability company, to purchase the property on Dec. 11, to which BF 1500 LCC delivered the special warranty deed on Dec. 15., according to the city staff memo.

Mayor Pro Tem Nathaniel J. Birdsong Jr. explained that the property would be used for recharge and storage and a future nature park and operational facilities for the city’s water department.

“This is a very important project to the City of Winter Haven,” he said. “One of the major challenges that the entire Polk County is going to face has to do with fresh drinking water. This is a project that will contribute to alternative water supplies for the City of Winter Haven. We are very excited about it.”

The stated goals of this city project are congruent with current efforts to address a potential water shortage within the county. The Polk Regional Water Cooperative was founded in 2016 to address such concerns.

“Polk County lies wholly within the Central Florida Water Initiative (CFWI) and the majority of the county also lies within the District’s Southern Water Use Caution Area, where groundwater withdrawals have caused adverse impacts to lakes, wetlands, and natural systems,” its website states. “The District identified that Polk County was reaching sustainable limits of traditional groundwater supplies through the 2015 CFWI Regional Water Supply Plan and would need to begin developing alternative water supplies.”

However, the city’s efforts to find alternative water supplies, including the acquisition of this property, elicited conspiracy from some concerned citizens.

One resident addressed the commission during public comment, inquiring about the cost and transparency of the acquisition. She argued that residents should be better informed about such matters, to which Birdsong insisted that the commission had discussed the acquisition in previous meetings.

Earlier that evening, that same resident went on a rambly tirade about water fluoridation during the public comments section of the meeting. She raised dubious claims that fluoride caused diseases like dementia and Alzheimer’s, and how America was one of the few countries to fluoridize their drinking water.

“[Fluoride] lowers the intelligence of children by six points, creates dementia and Alzheimer’s, creates bone cancer, and also bad for our teeth,” she said. “So, it is very dangerous, and it is in the Winter Haven water. It is not a joke that business owners know how unsavory the water of Winter Haven. I think everyone knows that, and we are paying for it.”

Water fluoridation has long been a concern among many conspiracy theorists, who have claimed fluoride lowers IQ and causes everything from Alzheimer’s to cancer. These conspiracies have led many cities (74 cities since 2018) to vote on removing fluoride from their drinking water, according to the American Dental Association.

However, scientists and public health officials, including those from the American Dental Association and the American Academy of Pediatrics, have averred that fluoride is perfectly safe and healthy.

“The frets over fluoride are reminiscent of the unfounded fear that vaccines cause autism: disproved by science, yet steadfast nonetheless,” NBC News reported in a 2018 article. “The persistence of fluoride conspiracy theories…is alarming public health officials, including the American Dental Association and the American Academy of Pediatrics, who say fluoride is a safe, inexpensive way to boost children’s oral health.”

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