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Tap Water at Trump National Golf Course Contaminated With Toxic 'Forever Chemicals'

Newsweek logo Newsweek 2019-11-06 James Crowley
Donald Trump in a suit standing in front of a building: The Trump National Golf Course in Bedminister, New Jersey has shown high levels of toxic chemicals in their drinking water. Trump has used the private golf club to hold meetings in the past. © Drew Angerer/Getty The Trump National Golf Course in Bedminister, New Jersey has shown high levels of toxic chemicals in their drinking water. Trump has used the private golf club to hold meetings in the past.

The Environmental Working Group has found that high levels of perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) and other perfluorinated chemicals (PFAS) have been detected in tap water at Trump National Golf Course in Bedminister, New Jersey. PFAS are often called "forever chemicals," because they don't break down once they enter the environment and can cause build-up in the blood and organs of people exposed to them. President Donald Trump has frequently used the private club for meetings with public officials and referred to the compound as "the summer White House."

The New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection reports 517 water systems in the state have been contaminated by these chemicals. EWG reports that over 1,000 water systems nationwide are affected by PFAS. PFOA, which was originally manufactured by DuPont for Teflon cookware, is believed to cause liver, testicular, and kidney cancer.

In a press release, EWG shared that PFOA levels reached 3.5 and 3.6 parts per trillion at Trump's Jersey golf course. This is much higher than the EWG's safety threshold, which recommends that any more than 1 ppt as unsafe for human consumption. Despite research from EWG and independent scientists, the Safe Drinking Water Act does not place a legal limit on PFAS.

A relatively simple solution exists to reduce PFAS in water. Scott Faber, EWG's vice president for government affairs, likened the Granular Activated Carbon filtration system to a "really big Brita filter." It works by "flushing the contaminated water over a bed of carbon, and the PFAS attaches to the carbon so it doesn't wind up in the filtered water," Faber told Newsweek. "There are filtration systems that are already being adopted around the country at every scale you can imagine."

EWG President Ken Cook condemned the private club for charging expensive membership fees while failing to provide something as fundamental as suitable drinking water. "I suppose one would hope after they've spent more than a quarter of million just to get in the door, President Trump could at least give his members filtered drinking water free of cancer-causing chemicals," he said.

Cook pointed to the many other cases of PFOA contaminated drinking water, explaining that the golf course is a microcosm of a larger problem. "But, if he's going to refuse to enact policies to clean up drinking water contamination for the rest of the country, why should the foursome waiting to tee off on the back nine be treated any different?" he added.

The president may be getting a literal taste of his own medicine, according to Faber. "I think it's sadly ironic that a President who has done more to weaken clean water protections has been serving contaminated water to his own guests," he told Newsweek. 

Dave Andrews, an EWG senior scientist, told Newsweek on Thursday, "As we see states test more, they're going to see more of this contamination. Most of the country is coming at this in a state of ignorance and not knowing the extent of the contamination."

"It might make you chuckle that there is PFAS in the water at Bedminister; the presence of PFAS in drinking water is no laughing matter," Faber reiterated.

The New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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