Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt wanted to recruit an Israeli-based water purification company, and possibly others, to address water quality problems in Flint, Mich., according to a report.
Pruitt was set to announce an agreement between Water-Gen and EPA on a trip to Israel, but the trip was canceled after reports surfaced of his first-class travel, according to The Washington Post.
The Post reported that Pruitt’s planned Israel trip was similar to other official trips, some details of which were coordinated with lobbyists and conservative groups. Reporters framed it in the context of allegations of overspending and ethical lapses that have dogged Pruitt in recent months.
Buried deep in The Post’s story, however, are details of an effort to apply Water-Gen’s purification technology to water quality problems in the U.S., including in Flint, where high levels of lead plagued their water supply for months.
“The administrator’s goal, which he stated at the meeting, is that this can help people. It can give people clean air and water,” Yehuda Kaploun, president of Water-Gen USA, told The Post.
“Pruitt asked company executives to meet with EPA water experts, inquired how quickly they could scale up and wanted to know whether they intended to manufacture in the United States,” Kaploun told The Post.
Kaploun added “that Pruitt mentioned the Flint, Mich., drinking-water crisis as one potential use,” The Post reported. EPA staff in Cincinnati are working with Water-Gen to see if the technology can be useful in American cities and towns plagued by dirty water.
Flint became the focal point of controversy after news broke EPA and state officials had known for months, but did nothing about high levels of lead in the city’s drinking water. A top Obama administration EPA official resigned in early 2016, and Michigan’s top health official was charged with manslaughter last year.
Two thousand Flint residents sued EPA in mid-2017 over its handling of the lead crisis. For months, residents dealt with lead-tainted water, relying on water deliveries, which ceased in April 2018.
EPA awarded Flint $100 million in 2017 to mitigate its lead problems in early 2017, and the agency later approved of Michigan’s plan to wipe away Flint’s debt for drinking water projects. Tests conducted in late 2017 showed lead in Flint’s water was below the legal limits, however, experts say even these relatively low levels pose health risks.
Pruitt met with Water-Gen at the urging of Sheldon Adelson, a casino magnate and GOP donor. Adelson was impressed with the technology, The Post reported. Water-Gen makes equipment to suck moisture out of the atmosphere and turn it into drinkable water.
Adelson has no financial stake in Water-Gen, he simply is impressed with the technology. Israel has long been a pioneer in water purification technologies. Water-Gen executives also met with President Donald Trump at Mar-a-Lago, WaPo reported, where they briefed him on the technology.
EPA eventually put out a call “for a Cooperative Research and Development Agreement to investigate the potential use of atmospheric water generators.”
“Our technology is so advanced that no one else is in the same realm,” Kaploun said.
So far, only Water-Gen is part of the agreement, but EPA officials said the company AquaSciences could soon sign on. Kaploun said his company “followed total protocol” to work with EPA.
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