The two New York senators are demanding that the Trump administration turn over documentation they maintain will reveal that polyfluoroalkyl substances are even more toxic than originally feared.
Senators Kirsten Gillibrand and Chuck Schumer, in a sharply worded letter to the Environmental Protection Agency dated May 15, demanded the information be released to their offices.
PFAS have been found in drinking wells in Wainscott, Hampton Bays, Yaphank, and Westhampton Beach, and in many other places across the nation.
The two senators contend that a study by the Department of Health and Human Services concludes, “These chemicals pose a danger to humans at far lower levels than the EPA said was safe.”
The letter, to EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt, accused officials from the White House, Department of Defense, and others of “intervening to delay” the release of the study.
“I’m extremely disturbed by the report that the Trump administration is hiding information from the public about the dangers of PFAS because they are scared that Americans will be angry,” said Senator Gillibrand in a statement on Friday.
“This attempted cover-up is outrageous. Numerous communities in New York have already had their water supplies poisoned by these very chemicals, and if the Trump administration has more evidence that PFAS are harmful to people’s health, then they need to come clean and tell the public,” she added.
A study by the Department of Health and Human Services Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry was undertaken in response to widespread concerns over PFAS in drinking water tested nationwide. One of the main culprits has been the United States Air Force National Guard, as reported in The Independent on September 21, 2016. But before the study could be made public, the Department of Defense intervened and blocked it, according to Senator Gillibrand, a ranking member of the Senate Armed Services Personnel Subcommittee.
The matter only came to the fore because the Union of Concerned Scientists filed a Freedom of Information request to the EPA in January. An email from an unnamed White House aide to the EPA was then released. “The public, media, and Congressional reaction to these numbers is going to be huge . . . The impact to EPA and DOD is going to be extremely painful. We cannot seem to get ATSDR to realize the potential public relations nightmare this is going to be,” it stated.
“I am deeply disturbed by reports that the Trump administration and top EPA officials are blocking a report vital to protect public health,” Schumer said earlier this week. “The American people need and deserve to know just how harmful PFAS and PFOA [perfluorooctanoic acid] are to the body.” He called the delay in releasing the study an attempt by the Trump administration, “to mislead or suppress this new information is an affront to communities in Newburgh, Suffolk and across the nation now confronting toxic PFOA-PFOS [perfluorooctane sulfonate] contamination in their drinking water and beyond.” Schumer urged the EPA to “release this study immediately.”
In 2016, The Independent reported that Schumer and Gillibrand had accused the Air National Guard at Gabreski Airport as the culprit in the contamination of nearby drinking wells.
There is a National Guard base in Newburgh that is ground zero for PFOA contamination in nearby drinking wells.
There have been reports of contaminants being found at scores, if not hundreds, of other Air Force facilities across the country.
The Air Force acknowledges water testing done in or near air bases has already shown that the chemicals spread into public drinking water systems around Willow Grove, PA, Pease in Portsmouth, NH, and a third base — Eielson, in Alaska.
According to Sharon Lerner, author of The Teflon Toxin, perfluorinated compounds have also been detected in the ground water at many more bases, including the Air National Guard Base in Delaware; the Grissom Air Reserve Base in Indiana; and the Naval Air Station in Fallon, NV.
According to a 2013 presentation by the Air Force, PFCs were found at every Air Force base that had been tested, which so far includes Randolph in Texas, Robins in Georgia, Beale and McClellan in California, Eglin in Florida, Ellsworth in South Dakota, and F.E. Warren in Wyoming.
“Given the scope of the contamination nationwide and the ongoing exposure of communities across the United States to these chemicals, it is imperative that the public receive an opportunity to review the ATSDR report,” the senators wrote in their letter to Pruitt.
It was signed by eight other senators: Thomas Carper, Debbie Stabonow, Jeanne Shaheen, Edward Markey, Elizabeth Warren, Patty Murray, Bernie Sanders, and Gary Peters.