Michigan residents warned to stop drinking poisoned water

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

As Environmental Disasters Mount Pruitt Cuts Hundreds of EPA Jobs

No-one in their right mind will dispute that natural disasters are horrific while they are occurring and in their immediate aftermath. The flooding resulting from Hurricane Katrina and most recently, Hurricane Harvey bear witness to the post-event damage unfolding in and around the Houston metropolitan area. However, when any natural disaster occurs, the threats of multiple environmental disasters pose a significant threat that demands a robust response from environment protection experts.

It is no great revelation to anyone that one of Trump’s missions as White House occupant is doing the bidding of the fossil fuel industry. Chief among that “bidding” is neutering, and eventually eliminating, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). It is why, after all, he appointed a sworn enemy of the federal agency, Scott Pruitt, to slash the agency half-to-death and deconstruct environmental regulations he regards as unfriendly to his funders in the fossil fuel industry.

This week, while Texas, and now Florida and possibly Louisiana face environmental disasters as a result of historically monstrous hurricanes predicted by climate scientists, Pruitt proudly announced he is cutting close to 500 EPA jobs. It’s glaringly apparent that it is more important to Pruitt to advance Trump’s deregulatory crusade than adopt an ‘all-hands-on-deck’ approach to the several environmental disasters still emerging.

In announcing that close to 500 hundred EPA employees are being “pushed out” in a “smaller government” effort, Pruitt boasted about hard-working and long-serving staffers leaving the agency. Pruitt has been pushing for “voluntary buyouts, early retirement and good old fashioned agency budget cuts” as preparation for Trump slashing EPA funding by 31 percent.  Pruitt said in a statement:

We’re proud to report that we’re reducing the size of government, protecting taxpayer dollars and staying true to our core mission of protecting the environment and American jobs.”

Pruitt is probably too much of an imbecile to comprehend how stupid he sounds to sane people when he congratulates himself for “protecting American jobs” at the same time he  announces he’s eliminating nearly 500 American jobs whose core mission is protecting the environment. It is particularly insane sounding that he’s cutting environmental protection jobs even as multiple environmental disasters threaten hundreds of thousands of American citizens in Texas alone. It is far too early in the hurricane season to estimate how many millions of Americans will face environmental disasters after the 150-plus mile-per-hour winds, driving rains, and subsequent flooding will cause. But it will be epic and the environmental disasters in the Houston area are prime examples.

Houston is the undisputed American petro-chemical capital, and the flooding has “triggered a dizzying list of environmental problems.” According to Gizmodo, “at least five toxic Superfund sites were breached by Harvey’s floodwaters,” and that is in addition to several reported oil spills. Of course the floodwaters “distribute” that spilled oil to better damage the surrounding areas.

There was also a chemical plant that housed “large stockpiles” of dangerous organic peroxide that exploded due to massive flooding. And if that isn’t enough environmental damage, health experts have warned that “still-lingering floodwaters” are likely polluted with “anything from weed repellant to animal feces to disease-causing bacteria.” When that polluted floodwater dries up, those pollutants will still remain and it is why having an excess of environmental experts on the scene to assess and coordinate cleanup efforts is crucial to protect the people in the affected area.

But this is Trump’s EPA and despite the damage to the environment, “the EPA’s most noteworthy response” to Hurricane Harvey was attacking an Associated Press journalist because he was covering “the ongoing environmental disaster.”

If these were remotely normal times there would be plenty of advocacy for, and debate about, why having fully-staffed and fully funded federal agencies such as FEMA and the EPA is crucial. But these are far from normal times with increasingly severe weather events wreaking havoc on the country and an administration slashing agencies to death. Now more than ever America needs a robust and fully-staffed EPA and FEMA because they are the only federal agencies created specifically to respond in times of distress.

This is particularly true because, regardless what any fact-averse member of Trump’s administration claims, there will be increasingly devastating natural and environmental disasters due to climate change. Still, Trump’s EPA is staffed at just below Reagan-era levels long before climate change-borne weather events posed the extraordinarily damaging hurricanes ravaging America recently.

Americans affected by the latest natural disasters, and those about to experience climate change’s fury, deserve all the assistance and protection the federal government can muster, and that includes protection from the environmental disasters that will linger long after the winds subside and floodwaters recede.

Image: Rick Bowmer/AP