A Tennessee state official reportedly told residents who were concerned about dirty drinking water that complaining about water quality could be considered "an act of terrorism."

The controversial comment was made by Sherwin Smith, the deputy director of the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation's (TDEC) Division Of Water Resources, during a May 29 meeting organized by Tennessee state Rep. Sheila Butt (R-Columbia).

"You need to make sure that when you make water quality complaints you have basis," Smith said, according to audio obtained by Statewide Organizing For Community eMpowerment (SOCM), a Knoxville-based civic action group. "Because federally, if there's no water quality issues, that can be considered, under Homeland Security, an act of terrorism."

The comments came during a discussion over poor water quality in Tennessee's Maury County, where residents have said people have gotten sick from drinking the water.