According to a report from The New Republic, the Trump Administration and EPA’s Scott Pruitt tried to suppress a federal study that shows water toxicity levels across the U.S. are worse than previously expected. The study found this was especially true around military bases, who routinely conduct training exercises using PFAS.
PFAS, or perfluoroalkyls, are chemical compounds used in numerous household items, from carpets to frying pans. They’re also used in military firefighting foams. This puts U.S. soldiers who reside on military bases at higher risk due to the exercises they conduct. These foams soak into the ground, contaminating drinking water, which is then distributed to around 3 million Americans by the Department of Defense.
The EPA acknowledges the chemical compounds are found in roughly 1 percent of the nation’s drinking water. And the Environmental Working Group states this includes roughly 1,500 drinking water systems across the country. While 1 percent may seem like a low figure, even citizens with low exposure have potentially increased risks of cancer; disruptions of hormones and the immune system; and complications with fetal development for women who are pregnant.
Fearing a “public relations nightmare,” the Trump Administration worked to hide the study from the public. One White House aide wrote:
“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 cannot seem to get ATSDR to realize the potential public relations nightmare this is going to be.”
The study was quietly released during the media firestorm around Trump’s immigration policy so that it would slip under the public’s radar. And sure enough, the mainstream media isn’t talking about it.
However the issue’s been known of since at least 2016 when the Grand Rapids Press spoke to veterans who developed medical problems they blamed on PFAS. It wasn’t until Michigan officials warned against consuming well water near the facility that citizens learned of the danger. One veteran stated:
“We thought that if anything was wrong, of course someone would tell us. It feels like we’ve been betrayed.”
The DOD has apparently taken action to stop the contamination, but according to the Berkeley School of Law, “the pace of actual cleanup has been quite slow. Most of the time and money has been spent studying the problem.” States like Washington are now testing drinking water for PFAS, and you can too, though it might set you back a couple thousand dollars depending on the lab you use.
The following PDF file provides a list of EPA-approved labs that can test for PFAS (source).