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Trump, Pruitt

President Donald Trump shakes hands with EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt after announcing his plans to withdraw the United States from the Paris climate agreement on June 1, 2017 in Washington, D.C. (Photo: Win McNamee/Getty Images)

'This Is a Big Deal': Fearing 'Public Relations Nightmare,' Pruitt's EPA Blocked Release of a Major Water Contamination Study

Journalists, members of Congress, environmental and public health advocates, and water experts are all calling on the Trump administration to "immediately" release the report

Jessica Corbett

Fearing a "public relations nightmare," President Donald Trump's White House and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), under the reign of administrator Scott Pruitt, blocked the release of a major water contamination story, according to emails obtained by the Union of Concerned Scientists and reported on by Politico.

News of the Trump administration's interference with a federal study on "a nationwide water-contamination crisis" infuriated reporters, politicians, experts, and advocates for public health and the environment. Friends of the Earth tweeted, "Scott Pruitt is more worried about journalists than poisoning millions of Americans."

"There's a lot of bleak news today, but this is important," journalist Mariah Blake said Monday, pointing to the Politico report.

The chemicals that were under review are PFOA and PFOS, which, as Politico notes, "have long been used in products like Teflon and firefighting foam"—as well as by the Department of Defense, when it conducts exercises at U.S. bases—despite the fact that they "have been linked with thyroid defects, problems in pregnancy, and certain cancers, even at low levels of exposure."

The study, conducted by the Department of Health and Human Services' (HHS) Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR), reportedly shows that these chemicals are dangerous to human health at far lower levels than previously known or diclosed by the EPA, and have "contaminated water supplies near military bases, chemical plants, and other sites from New York to Michigan to West Virginia."

One email sent by a White House aide to a staffer who oversees environmental issues at the Office of Budget and Management said:

The public, media, and Congressional reaction to these numbers is going to be huge. ...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.

"Soon after the Trump White House raised concerns about the impending study," Politico reports, "EPA chief of staff Ryan Jackson reached out to his HHS counterpart, as well as senior officials in charge of the agency overseeing the assessment to discuss coordinating work among HHS, EPA, and the Pentagon." However, according to HHS, there are no plans to publicly release the study.

"Only Scott Pruitt and the Trump administration would consider reducing drinking water contamination for the American people to be a 'nightmare,'" remarked Ken Cook, president of the Environmental Working Group.

"This is a big deal," oceanographer Jamie Collins said of the study and efforts to block its release.

Rep. Dan Kildee (D-Mich.), who was raised in and now represents Flint, Michigan—which has been poisoned by a water crisis created by state-mandated austerity measures—responded with a letter to Trump-appointed HHS Secretary Alex Azar, demanding that he "immediately" release the study.

In a series of tweets, Sen. Maggie Hassan (D-N.H.) also called on the Trump administration to release the study:


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Harris Says White House Not 'Discussing' Use of Federal Land for Abortion Care

Sen. Elizabeth Warren and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez are among the Democratic lawmakers who have expressed support for the idea as GOP-controlled states move to outlaw abortion.

Jake Johnson ·


Abortion Rights Defenders Applaud Judge's Block on Utah 'Trigger Ban'

"Today is a win, but it is only the first step in what will undoubtedly be a long and difficult fight," said one pro-choice advocate.

Brett Wilkins ·


Scores Feared Dead and Wounded as Russian Missiles Hit Ukraine Shopping Center

"People just burned alive," said Ukraine's interior minister, while the head of the Poltava region stated that "it is too early to talk about the final number of the killed."

Brett Wilkins ·


Biodiversity Risks Could Persist for Decades After Global Temperature Peak

One study co-author said the findings "should act as a wake-up call that delaying emissions cuts will mean a temperature overshoot that comes at an astronomical cost to nature and humans that unproven negative emission technologies cannot simply reverse."

Jessica Corbett ·


Amnesty Report Demands Biden Take Action to End Death Penalty

"The world is waiting for the USA to do what almost 100 countries have achieved during this past half-century—total abolition of the death penalty," said the group.

Julia Conley ·

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