Tenn. Official Warns Residents That Water Quality Complaints Could Be Seen As Terrorism

Taking a page straight out of the book Things You Should Not Compare To Terrorism, Especially While You’re Being Recorded, a Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation deputy director is under fire after warning a group of residents from one county that any unfounded complaints they made about water quality in their area could be considered “an act of terrorism.”

S”ay what now?” You’re probably spluttering at the screen. That’s exactly what residents at the meeting were wondering.

According to The Tennessean, the TDEC’s Division of Water Resources deputy director was addressing the group during a meeting organized by a state rep and attended by residents, the TDEC and local officials.

“We take water quality very seriously. Very, very seriously,” the official said in a recording made by Statewide Organizing for Community eMpowerment, a civic action group. “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.”

“Can you say that again, please?” an audience member asks. The deputy director then repeats himself.

Residents in Maury County say they’ve been complaining to the state of Tennessee for two months saying some kids in one community have become ill after drinking the water.

The TDEC now says it’s investigating what went on at the meeting.

“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,” a spokeswoman 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 [the official] actually clarified his remarks. But again, we are looking into it.”

One resident who attended the meeting says she thinks the comment was made to quash any further protest from residents.

“I was sitting there with my mouth open,” she said. “I couldn’t believe he was saying that.”The message she took away was: “Leave us alone. Don’t come back anymore. We’re not going to continue on dealing with whatever problem you may have.”

As for that reportedly cloudy water, she added, “I’ll drink it, but I pray before the first sip.”

State Rep. Sheila Butt, who organized the meeting, was also surprised to hear the word “terrorism” brought up.

“I think that we need to be very careful with how we use the words ‘terrorist’ and ‘terrorism,’ ” she said. “I thought it was out of context. That did not apply to anything that we were discussing at the meeting.”

Official: water complaints could be ‘act of terrorism’ [The Tennessean]