Editor’s note: This is part of an ongoing series highlighting the local impact of Trump’s policies in key counties in MI, PA, WI, and FL.
In an emotional congressional hearing in September 2018, members of Congress pressed a Department of Defense official as to why test results showing high levels of PFAS in the groundwater at the Battle Creek Air National Guard Base in Calhoun County, Michigan, were held up in bureaucracy for months.
On the EPA’s website, PFAS are described as “a group of man-made chemicals that includes PFOA, PFOS, GenX, and many other chemicals” that have been “manufactured and used in a variety of industries around the globe, including in the United States since the 1940s.”
One member of Congress, Rep. Upton of Michigan, displayed test results showing PFAS levels at the base were over 1,000 times higher than the advisory level set by the Environmental Protection Agency.
But according to an American Ledger review, Battle Creek as a whole is facing a PFAS contamination crisis, and with the Trump Administration’s commitment to rolling back environmental regulations, the spread of PFAS and other dangerous chemicals in the drinking water in Battle Creek is likely to continue.
According to Woodtv.com, the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality tested 61 residential wells that were located within 1 mile of Battle Creek Air National Guard Base. Nineteen of those wells tested positive for PFAS but below the state standard of 70 parts per trillion, and one well, located north of the base, rendered particularly high numbers, with a reading of 411 parts per trillion.
Just 25 miles from Battle Creek, Bronson Plating discharged 240,000 ppt of PFAS to the Bronson wastewater plant, according to a 2018 report by the Associated Press – nearly 3,500 times the EPA advisory level.
Studies have shown that exposure to PFAS can increase the risk of cancer, kidney disease, thyroid conditions and leave pregnant women and children particularly at risk.
“This is something that is not just an issue in Battle Creek or Michigan,” Air National Guard 1st Lt. Andrew Layton said to Woodtv.com. “This is a national issue.”
Despite the ongoing contamination crisis that is plaguing communities like Battle Creek, in early 2018, Trump’s EPA and the White House actively blocked the publication of a study by the Department of Health and Human Services that would have stated PFAS levels are much more dangerous to affected populations than once believed. One Trump aide feared it would cause a “public relations nightmare.”
According to Politico, the HHS assessment was set to warn sensitive populations, like infants and breastfeeding mothers, of the serious dangers posed by significant levels of PFAS contamination in water.
In July 2018, Pruitt was forced to resign over a litany of ethics scandals, including using his official position to help his wife obtain a Chick-fil-A franchise and tasking aides to obtain special favors for himself and his family.
And it’s not just PFAS that are contaminating Battle Creek’s water.
In June 2018, local Battle Creek officials had to distribute water to homes with children under the age of 12 months, spending $135,000 of local funding on these families due to high levels of Manganese that were discovered in the water.
Battle Creek is located within Calhoun County, Michigan, which swung to President Trump in 2016 after voting for Barack Obama in 2008 and 2012. In 2016, Michigan voted for President Trump by just over 11,000 votes.
In 2020, President Trump will again need these swing voters to deliver an electoral victory in Michigan, a key state in his path to taking back the White House.
But as the president continues to roll back critical protections for the safety of drinking water and the health of residents in areas such as Calhoun County, local residents might be looking to his potential Democratic alternative when selecting a president next time around.