Jerry Ensminger to EPA’s Wheeler: ‘The Time for Weasel Words Is Over’

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For Immediate Release: 
Friday, February 15, 2019

WASHINGTON – Retired Marine Corps Master Sgt. Jerry Ensminger, who was stationed for many years at Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, in North Carolina, lost his daughter Janey in 1985 at the age of 9 from leukemia after she was exposed to toxic chemicals while living on base.

Since then, Ensminger has been an outspoken critic of the federal government’s slow response to drinking water sources contaminated by industrial waste, including fluorinated chemicals, or PFAS.

The following statement from Ensminger is in response to the woefully inadequate PFAS management plan released yesterday by EPA Acting Administrator Andrew Wheeler.

Toxic PFAS contamination threatens the drinking water of millions of North Carolina residents like me. Many people continue to eat fish most likely laced with PFAS chemicals. But the so-called PFAS action plan released by Acting EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler is all delay and no action.

Major decisions – like whether to set a drinking water standard, designate sites contaminated by PFAS as Superfund sites, stop the use of toxic PFAS chemicals in everyday products and stop discharging more toxic PFAS chemicals into the air and water – are simply being kicked down the road. North Carolina’s senators should refuse to consider whether to let Wheeler stay as EPA administrator until he commits to treating the PFAS contamination crisis like a crisis. In particular, Wheeler should make an official regulatory determination to set a drinking water standard for PFAS chemicals and should designate PFAS a hazardous substance under the Superfund law. 

The time to ‘investigate’ or ‘consider’ whether and how to address PFAS contamination is long past. The time for weasel words is over. Unless Wheeler starts acting like a real EPA administrator, he should not be given the job. I can guarantee everyone: If it were Charlotte's Lake Norman, where the high-rollers live, instead of the Cape Fear River, that was negligently contaminated by GenX, Wheeler would be kneeling in front of many desks in the Russell, Dirksen and Hart Senate office buildings on Capitol Hill.”

EPA’s PFAS management plan, widely condemned by the environmental and public health community, falls far short of what is needed to clean up the nation’s tap water supply and protect the public from these dangerous chemicals.

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