Surprise! Bronson did, in fact, meddle with the city’s water supply.

Mayor Dave Bronson. (Photo courtesy The Blue Alaskan)

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A day after his administration claimed there was no truth to a series of accusations of impropriety on the part of Anchorage Mayor Dave Bronson, the office has now conceded that it did, in fact, meddle with the city’s water supply.

In a written statement published by Alaska Public Media, the administration admitted it ordered the shutdown of the fluoridation system at the Anchorage Water and Wastewater Utility’s Eklutna treatment plant for five hours either during or following a visit by the mayor on Oct. 1.

The admission confirms one of several disturbing anonymously sourced accusations published by the Alaska Landmine on Saturday. The other issues revolved around the Bronson administration’s improper requests made of the Anchorage Police Department, including an attempt to dismiss police from a heated Assembly meeting and an attempt to interfere with the treatment of a man with covid-19.

“For all three of these questions the answer is this is false. These did not happen,” Bronson spokesman Corey Allen Young wrote to Alaska Public in an email on Monday, a day before the administration conceded that one of the three did, in fact, happen.

[More: With Bronson at the wheel, Anchorage is starting to feel like a clown car]

According to the account provided by the not-exactly-truthful press office, the decision to halt fluoridation at the treatment facility was made during a visit where employees apparently complained about handling the fluoride. The statement provides no explanation of whether the employees were properly handling the chemical in the first place—which is widely used in public water systems and in Anchorage for decades—and ordered it be shut off with the apparent understanding that it didn’t violate the city charter, federal or state laws based off “information that was presented.”

If you’re hoping to know what that information is or who was presenting it, you’re out of luck.

It apparently wasn’t until five hours later that the administration thought to check the municipal code—you know, the laws of the city—to see if their actions were justified.

“Later that afternoon, the Mayor’s Office determined Municipal Code requires the fluoridation of Anchorage’s water supply,” explains the city’s version of events. “The Mayor’s Office immediately informed AWWU leadership to resume fluoridation of the Muni’s water. Fluoride was not added to the water supply for approximately five hours.”

Why the mayor didn’t think to examine the very laws he’s charged with executing—something that’s as easy as searching “fluoride” in the city’s code publishing website—is also not answered by the news release.

In a bit of deflection, the administration goes onto argue that the whole thing wasn’t really that big of a deal. The fluoridation system gets turned off for longer periods of time for maintenance… so therefore it’s OK for the mayor to shut it down? The statement also included a quote from AWWU General Manager Mark Corsentino that “the data shows there was no disruption or material change to the fluoride in our water during October 1.”  

Also, because it’s apparently something that we needed to be concerned about under Bronson’s leadership, “Anchorage’s water supply remains safe for public consumption.”

‘It doesn’t make any sense’

And already, the city’s explanation of the event is being drawn into question. Primarily this claim that employees at the treatment, who’ve been handling fluoridation system for years without apparent incident, would have been suddenly complaining about their eyes burning.

In an interview with Alaska Public Media, Anchorage Municipal Employees Association President Jon Cecil said he had not heard any such complaints from city employees being harmed by the fluoride, noting that there’s training and safety equipment for those handling the chemicals. He also told the station that his initial reaction to the mayor’s statement was “It doesn’t make any sense. … I’d like to know: Were untrained personnel at AWWU dealing with fluoride, if they were, why and who authorized that?” 

AWWU’s former manager Brett Jokela also questioned the city’s version of events.

“I suppose that’s possible,” he told Alaska Public Media. “That never came up when I was at the utility, though, not from an employee contact point of view.”

The news release also claims that the administration had planned to bring the concerns to the Anchorage Assembly for investigation. That never happened.

Why it matters

The city may very well be right that on a technical level, the interruption of the fluoridation system is not that big of a deal. Again, I’m reminded of the administration’s dogged defense of Municipal Manager/Shadow Mayor Amy Demboski’s attempts to shutdown the livestream of a public meeting with the technically correct claim of “the livestream was not shut down at any time.”

There are two immediate takeaways that I want to highlight here:

First, fluoride in drinking water has long been an issue of what has become the modern-day wellness-to-QAnon pipeline (a phrase that was brought into my vernacular this episode of the excellent Maintenance Phase podcast). Anti-fluoridation and anti-vaccine are essentially two sides of the same, conspiratorial coin fueled by faulty, dishonest studies and an overriding paranoia about public health efforts. That the Bronson administration would meddle with the city’s fluoride system a month before going to cheer on vaccine skeptics at his fringe medicine summit should not be overlooked.

Second, the faulty decision-making around the entire thing—which apparently rested on some unexplained “information that was presented” that could’ve been debunked by anyone with a rudimentary ability to google things—and the subsequent efforts to lie and then gaslight it away is, well, par for the course that Bronson and his allies are carving through this city. Add a lying press office to the laundry list. As the quote goes, “Trust is built in drops and lost in buckets.” And, hooboy, this is one big bucket.

The fact that the fluorination claim has now proven to be true also lends more credibility to the breadth of claims made by the Alaska Landmine. While there’s reason to take the remaining claims with a grain of salt—or perhaps a fluoride tablet—there’s also ample reason to worry there might be another fire or four contributing to all the smoke coming from city hall.

At this point, it’s not like we can trust them.

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