While Promising 'Leadership' on PFAS, EPA Hides Truth on Tap Water Contamination

Rep. Peter Welch File

Rep. Peter Welch File

The Environmental Protection Agency barred reporters from The Associated Press, CNN and other media organizations from attending a national summit on water contaminants, led by EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt on Tuesday morning. Some 200 people attended, including representatives of states, tribes and the chemical industry and environmentalists. The study, which has still not yet been released by the Trump administration, finds the chemicals can cause health problems and developmental defects at levels far below what the EPA officially considers to be safe.

Pruitt drew questions from Republican and Democratic lawmakers last week after emails obtained under the Freedom of Information Act revealed an unidentified White House official calling a pending federal toxicological report on the chemical a "potential public-relations nightmare".

At issue is a class of chemicals - Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances - that accumulate in drinking water and that can be found in things like non-stick and stain-repellant surfaces, household cleaners and various manufacturing applications.

While Pruitt seems enthusiastic, there are some EPA employees who believe this stunt does not serve the original mission of the agency.

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Today his agency is working on dozens of sites contaminated with those chemicals, Breysse said. Authorities say the contaminants are present in risky levels in some water systems, including several near military bases and industries.

"I don't think anybody knew until this" that the compounds even existed, said Jean Holloway, who works with a DE nonprofit helping Blade residents deal with the contamination. "It's even more pervasive than I realized", Holloway said.

One advocate from the Seacoast, Testing for Pease founder Andrea Amico, also met with federal officials before the summit. The step could allow the agency to make companies pay for releasing the pollutants into ground and water.

The EPA initially turned away some news organizations, including The Associated Press and CNN, who sought to cover the meeting.

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As Oklahoma's Attorney General, Pruitt sued the EPA 14 times to block clean air/water rules. AP reportsthat "security guards grabbed the reporter by the shoulders and shoved her forcibly out of the EPA building".

Wilcox blamed Tuesday's barring of journalists on space limitations, saying in a statement at the time that the EPA provided a livestream of the event to those interested, and that the agency was only able to accommodate 10 reporters - an assertion disputed by reports in other media outlets, which said that there were vacant seats in the room. This reporter did not attempt to force her way into the building or otherwise resist, and was not hurt.

According to an article in The Hill later in the day, all the reporters were allowed to cover the second part of the hearing.

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