Skip to main content

Sign up for our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values. Direct to your inbox.

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:


Our work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.

This is the world we live in. This is the world we cover.

Because of people like you, another world is possible. There are many battles to be won, but we will battle them together—all of us. Common Dreams is not your normal news site. We don't survive on clicks. We don't want advertising dollars. We want the world to be a better place. But we can't do it alone. It doesn't work that way. We need you. If you can help today—because every gift of every size matters—please do. Without Your Support We Simply Don't Exist.

'I Had a Duty of Care': Doctor Praised for Violating Texas' New Abortion Ban

"I hope the law gets overturned," Dr. Alan Braid said, "and if this is what does it, that would be great."

Jessica Corbett ·


'Infuriating Disappointment': Biden DHS Ramping Up Deportations to Haiti

"It is unconscionable for the Biden administration to resume deportation flights to Haiti, despite the country's ongoing political, economic, and environmental disasters."

Jessica Corbett ·


Architect of Texas Abortion Ban Takes Aim at LGBTQ+ Rights While Urging Reversal of Roe

"Make no mistake, the goal is to force extreme, outdated, religious-driven values on all of us through the courts."

Jessica Corbett ·


Ahead of Canadian Election, Bernie Sanders and Rashida Tlaib Endorse NDP

"Bernie, you have fought courageously for public healthcare, affordable medication, making the rich pay their fair share, and tackling the climate crisis," said party leader Jagmeet Singh. "We're doing the same here."

Jessica Corbett ·


US Urged to End Drone Strikes After Pentagon Says Killing 10 Afghan Civilians Was 'Horrible Mistake'

"That was not a 'mistake,'" said journalist Anand Giridharadas. "War crimes are not oopsies."

Brett Wilkins ·

Support our work.

We are independent, non-profit, advertising-free and 100% reader supported.

Subscribe to our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values.
Direct to your inbox.

Subscribe to our Newsletter.


Common Dreams, Inc. Founded 1997. Registered 501(c3) Non-Profit | Privacy Policy
Common Dreams Logo