May 24, 2022

The Trump camp just set out to contain a growing life or death military scandal

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“Support the Troops” is a favorite slogan used frequently by the right to push their agenda, but they often fail to practice what they preach. This time, the Trump administration’s rollback of environmental protections has threatened the drinking water at military bases across the country.

Emails sent among U.S. government show the Trump administration desperately trying to get ahead of a potentially damning report on a class of chemicals found to have polluted the military water supplies.

The January exchanges reveal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) officials and Office of Management and Budget (OMB) fretting over a still-concealed study from the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).

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The kicker is that the report doesn’t expose new chemicals in the water – instead, it adjusts the level of safe exposure to a much lower one than the EPA had previously reported.

So, the military bases in question have been exposed to these chemicals, just not “too much” of them. Until now, that is, as new research has updated the levels. The already unstable White House is now reportedly bracing for a “public relations nightmare” when the report goes public.

The Union of Concerned Scientists, a pro-science advocacy group,  requested the email chain in question through the Freedom of Information Act. They have had them for several months now, but have yet to go public with the report.

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The alarm bells went off when the study concluded there is a minimal risk with exposure to the chemicals as low as 12 ppt, or parts per trillion a stark drop from the original number from 70 ppt.

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The chemicals, perfluorooctanesulfonic acid (PFOS)and perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), were found in drinking water or groundwater in quantities exceeding the safe amount as decreed by the EPA. 126 military facilities have been exposed to the chemicals, a May study released by the Department of Defense said.

The perflourinated compounds, present in a firefighting foam used by the military, have been linked in some studies to prostate, kidney and testicular cancer, as well as to fertility problems and developmental delays in fetuses and children, according to the Defense Department report.

So much for being pro-life, Trump.

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An email from James Herz,  associate director for Natural Resources, Energy and Science at White House Office of Management and Budget, to EPA Chief Financial Officer Holly Greaves laid out the concerns in greater detail.

Particularly interesting was an email Herz had forwarded to Greaves, written but an as-yet unidentified White House Office of Intergovernmental Affairs official, stating:

“The public, media, and Congressional reaction to these new numbers is going to be huge. The impact to EPA and DoD 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.”

ATSDR stands for the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, a subdivision of HHS. Nice to see them actively making the choice to disregard the title of their agency when spending American tax dollars.

Officials at HHS and EPA did not immediately return requests for comment.

They’re probably too busy coordinating Scott Pruitt’s next luxury vacation.

Natalie Dickinson

Natalie is a staff writer for the Washington Press. She graduated from Oberlin College in 2010 and has been freelance blogging and writing for progressive outlets ever since.

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