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Drinking Water PFAS Contamination Crisis: Ex-Koch Chemicals Executive Playing Key Role in Shaping EPA's Response

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Linus Strandholm / EyeEm / Getty Images

A former chemical and fossil fuel industry executive who recently oversaw the anti-environmental agenda of the Koch brothers is playing a lead role crafting the Trump administration's plan to address the crisis of PFAS contamination in the nation's drinking water supply, according to a report Monday by Politico.


David Dunlap, a top political appointee in the Office of Research and Development at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), has played a significant role in shaping the agency's plan for addressing PFAS contamination in the tap water supplies of more than 100 million Americans. According to documents obtained by Politico through a public records request, Dunlap began working on the issue almost immediately after coming to EPA, in October, and has participated in at least nine meetings on PFAS, including one briefing with Andrew Wheeler, the agency's acting administrator.

Dunlap, a chemical engineer, had been the director of environmental affairs at Koch Industries since 2010, before coming into the Trump administration. On his LinkedIn profile, Dunlap described his position at Koch Industries as a "subject matter expert" on water, including the Safe Drinking Water Act, chemical management and the Toxic Substances Control Act. Before working for Koch, Dunlap worked at the Chlorine Institute.

Last week, Politico Pro's Annie Snider reported that, according to her sources, Wheeler will not move to regulate any of the PFAS family of fluorinated chemicals by setting a legal limit, known as a maximum contaminant level, under the federal Safe Drinking Water Act.

Studies have linked PFAS chemicals to cancer, kidney disease, weakened childhood immunity and other health problems.

"When Andrew Wheeler, a former coal lobbyist, installs a former Koch executive to clean up toxic chemicals in drinking water, the chances of it happening are about as likely as snowfall in San Diego," said EWG senior vice president of government affairs Scott Faber. "We hope both Wheeler and Dunlap will follow EPA's mission statement instead of the demands of the chemical industry and adopt a health-protective drinking water standard that will reduce PFAS in the drinking water serving millions of people."

EWG and researchers at Northeastern University have tracked 172 PFAS contamination sites in 40 states. Drawing on unreleased data from EPA tests, EWG estimates that water supplies for as many as 110 million Americans may be contaminated.

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