Tell Environmental Official That Water Safety Complaints Aren’t Terrorism

Target: Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation official Sherwin Smith

Goal: Denounce Smith’s attempts to silence citizens complaining about water quality

In a recent conference with county residents, Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation official Sherwin Smith was recorded making an outrageous claim about water safety complaints. Facing mounting complaints from citizens about local children getting ill from unsafe water, Smith attempted to deflect criticism by claiming that complaining about water quality without basis can be considered “an act of terrorism.” Smith was recorded on tape by a local activist group stating that “[y]ou need to make sure that when you make water quality complaints you have basis, because federally, if there’s no water quality issues, that can be considered, under Homeland Security, an act of terrorism.”

Needless to say, Smith’s remarks are totally incorrect. As explicitly defined by the Code of Laws of the United States, terrorism is “premeditated, politically motivated violence perpetrated against noncombatant targets.” Moreover, Smith’s claims seem aimed at silencing local critics of his department’s job in providing safe and clean water, as noted by many present at the conference. Recently, a town under Sherwin Smith’s authority was forced to issue a notice to residents to boil any faucet water before using it because of highly dangerous bacteria in the town’s water supply.

In numerous towns, schoolchildren have become ill, apparently from drinking water on public school campuses. If the state Department of Environment and Conservation is failing its citizens in protecting their health, it must step up and redouble its efforts, not try to distract people from the problem with absurd statements like Smith’s. Denounce Smith’s intimidation tactics and demand that his department take its job more seriously.


Dear Sherwin Smith,

Your recent remarks to your county’s residents were false and incendiary. Claiming that complaining about water quality without foundation is federally recognized as “an act of terrorism” is absurd, and seems to most observers to be a trick aimed at distracting from the issue at hand. Ensuring water quality and safety is an important government service, and you should respond positively to citizens’ criticisms of your department, rather than hurling inane allegations at them.

You and your fellow state workers cannot intimidate your critics by making absurd claims about them being terrorists. I demand that you retract your statements, apologize for them, and begin to set straight your own department instead of deflecting legitimate criticism.


[Your Name Here]

Photo credit: project hotsauce via Flickr

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