One of Trump’s first executive orders after his very poorly attended inauguration was allowing coal companies to dump toxic waste into water sources. Shortly thereafter, the cretin directed the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to replace the Clean Water act with a decade-old idea proffered by deceased Antonin Scalia based on his conservative opinion; not on “hydrology, biology, chemistry, or environmental concerns.”
Suffice it to say, with Republicans in charge of the government and a majority of the states, the concept of “Clean Water” is now almost exclusively the purview of special interests with no interest in protecting water for human consumption.
It should be no great shock, then, that two Michigan communities had such “dangerously high levels of industrial chemicals” in their drinking water that it prompted officials to issue an emergency alert warning citizens to stop using the water. The residents of Parchment and Cooper Townships were warned late Thursday:
“To immediately stop using their water for drinking, cooking, making baby formula and food, or rinsing fruits and vegetables … and cautioned that boiling it would not remove PFAS, nor would filters.” Officials also called on “residents using the City of Parchment’s water supply, which includes Cooper Township, to help spread this message to your neighbors.”
The two municipalities in Kalamazoo County began receiving bottled water Friday morning because:
“High amounts of per-and polyfluoroalkyl substances, or PFAS, were detected by the [Michigan] Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ). The state agency tests yielded 1,410 parts per trillion in the drinking water supply.”
The level of PFAS was a whopping 20 times higher than the “lifetime health advisory” according to the EPA, although a recent study by the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) and the EPA revealed “that the health advisory should be set far lower.
According to the Detroit News, the toxic water is so dangerous that the State Emergency Operations Center was activated putting police, the Department of Environmental Quality, Health and Human Services, and the Michigan PFAS Action Response Team on alert. At least in this latest toxic event, and unlike the disaster in Flint, Michigan officials are not denying the danger or waiting to provide clean water to the affected citizens; it is a midterm election year after all.
Gov. Rick Snyder (R) did not claim ignorance of the problem like he did during the still ongoing Flint water system crisis. Snyder said in a statement that the health of residents would be prioritized in addition to ensuring their access to drinking water.
“Our next step is to work as a team to address the source of this contamination and restore the municipal water system.”
House Representative Fred Upton (R-MI) represents the area and posted his reaction to the news of more poisoned water on Facebook. He said “he would be meeting with state and local officials to mount a response and called on the Trump administration to crack down on PFAS. [The} immediate need is to get to the bottom of this and ensure folks have safe drinking water in the meantime.”
City officials claimed they were not sure how the man-made chemicals entered the water sources, although they do know, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), that PFAS is found in non-stick cookware, water-repellent clothing, stain resistant fabrics and carpets, some cosmetics, some firefighting foams, and products that resist grease, water, and oil. PFAS is nothing to ignore as it can lead to severe health problems because it affects the human immune system leading to an increased risk of cancer and liver disease, “among other health hazards.”
This is not the only instance of PFAS contamination and it is not restricted to Michigan. Just this week New Jersey’s Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) issued human consumption limits for fish found in a dozen bodies of water over PFAS concerns. Other states, including Alabama, Minnesota, and Wisconsin have either drawn up drafts or were proactive and actually finalized new limits on the amount of PFAS their citizens can safely ingest. In Pennsylvania, another state struggling to overcome “severe PFAS contamination,” lawmakers and community leaders are begging the EPA to issue new PFAS health standards; but they are not calling on anyone to ban the dangerous toxin or severely punish industry caught releasing it into water sources.
With Trump’s special interest puppet running the EPA, it is highly unlikely there will be any real action to restrict the chemical’s release into Americans’ water sources. The Republicans in charge of the EPA and CDC, and even Trump, may offer lip service during a midterm election year, but it is doubtful there will be any real action. Remember, Trump follows the Koch-Heritage-GOP script carefully and claims that the environmental and health regulations regarding industry poisoning drinking water are killing jobs – it is the reason he has given with every new executive order eliminating different aspects of the Clean Water Act and rollback of environmental protections.
The only good news is that Michigan officials were actually running periodic tests on the affected water sources and alerted the public to stop using their water. It is not clear how long the PFAS levels have been 20 times higher than is considered safe over a lifetime, but at that rate it is difficult to imagine there will not be serious health ramifications in the future due to even limited exposure.
Since this issue is widespread and has been ongoing, it is likely all the attention now is due to the looming midterm elections. Based on the Republican support for Trump’s assault on the Clean Water Act and coupled with attacks on regulations restricting industry pouring toxic waste into water supplies, the sense of urgency by some Michigan officials seems insincere at best. Particularly when officials are asking the people impacted by poisoned water to do the job state and federal agencies exist to do; warn the people to stop using poisoned water.
Image: Danny Miller – AP