Trump’s EPA hides toxic water crisis report

Trump's EPA hides toxic water crisis report

A federal report on a growing crisis of toxins in the nation’s water remains hidden after the White House and the EPA intervened to prevent its release to the public, Politico reported Monday.

One Trump official said the report would cause a “public relations nightmare.”

Evidently Trump and the Republican Party worry more about politically toxic facts than they do about life-threatening toxins in our water. That’s the anti-life party at work. More from Politico:

The intervention early this year — not previously disclosed — came as HHS’ Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry was preparing to publish its assessment of a class of toxic chemicals that has contaminated water supplies near military bases, chemical plants and other sites from New York to Michigan to West Virginia.

The study would show that the chemicals endanger human health at a far lower level than EPA has previously called safe, according to the emails.

“The public, media, and Congressional reaction to these numbers is going to be huge,” one unidentified White House aide said in an email forwarded on Jan. 30 by James Herz, a political appointee who oversees environmental issues at the OMB. The email added: “The impact to EPA and [the Defense Department] is going to be extremely painful. We (DoD and EPA) cannot seem to get ATSDR to realize the potential public relations nightmare this is going to be.”

More than three months later, the draft study remains unpublished, and the HHS unit says it has no scheduled date to release it for public comment. Critics say the delay shows the Trump administration is placing politics ahead of an urgent public health concern — something they had feared would happen after agency leaders like Pruitt started placing industry advocates in charge of issues like chemical safety.

The article goes on to show why the Administration wants to keep the public ignorant: the Department of Defense bears liability for much of the toxic pollution described in the report, which makes its way into the environment and eventually into our bodies:

The chemicals at issue in the HHS study have long been used in products like Teflon and firefighting foam, and are contaminating water systems around the country. Known as PFOA and PFOS, they have been linked with thyroid defects, problems in pregnancy and certain cancers, even at low levels of exposure.

The problem has already proven to be enormously costly for chemicals manufacturers. The 3M Co., which used them to make Scotchguard, paid more than $1.5 billion to settle lawsuits related to water contamination and personal injury claims.

But some of the biggest liabilities reside with the Defense Department, which used foam containing the chemicals in exercises at bases across the country. In a March report to Congress, the Defense Department listed 126 facilities where tests of nearby water supplies showed the substances exceeded the current safety guidelines.

A government study concluding that the chemicals are more dangerous than previously thought could dramatically increase the cost of cleanups at sites like military bases and chemical manufacturing plants, and force neighboring communities to pour money into treating their drinking water supplies.

Once again, the Republican solution to pollution is to deny knowledge of it, and discredit scientists who show any linkage. They do not want us to know how badly our economic and political structure is abusing us, for surely anyone who discovers the facts will demand change, and solutions will require higher taxes to pay for military waste cleanup, and stiffer regulations and fines to force corporations to pay the costs of their pollution cleanup. That is one thing the anti-life Republicans will never tolerate. They insist that we pay most of the costs of corporate pollution as well as the costs of cleaning up the military’s toxic waste. (Did you know that nearly 900 of the 1,200 Superfund sites–the nation’s worst toxic waste sites–are abandoned military facilities?)

Meanwhile, they cut taxes on the rich, forcing the rest of us to absorb even more of the costs of our biosphere-destroying economic system. And we pay those costs by getting sick, missing work, and falling seriously ill with cancers, neurological diseases, immune system diseases and other chronic and acute illnesses that sap our strength and our joy. Adding insult to injury, we pay for all of that with our dwindling incomes, the worst health insurance in the free world, few protections for job security when we fall seriously ill, and, ultimately, with our deaths and the costs of our funerals.

To make that even more ironic, all these extra costs that we pay while the rich grow richer count toward the main measure of our economy, the Gross Domestic Product. Yes, our illnesses, hospital bills and funeral costs are all considered positives for the economy, in this twisted, unjust system of ours.  And that’s just how the anti-life Republican Party likes it.

Photo: Common Commons license; credit Lorie Shaull

About the author

David Backes

I have always been drawn to where the wild things are: the natural world around me, and the wilderness within. As a writer, speaker, and university professor, I have for decades focused on this combination of nature and the human spirit. In recent years, my spiritual journey has added another lens: social, environmental and intergenerational justice. Put it all together and you’ve got The Earth Keeper, a blog of integral ecology and the prophetic imagination. The Earth Keeper may at times make you feel hopeful or inspired; it may make you feel uncomfortable or defensive or even angry. I hope it often will be challenging, and always interesting.

Copyright © 2018 by David Backes. All rights reserved. Powered by WordPress.

%d bloggers like this: