- Reuters/Carlos Barria
- On Wednesday, during a flight on Air Force One, President Trump told reporters that he thought San Francisco was in violation of environmental protection laws and claimed the city was “going to hell.”
- Trump claimed, without evidence, that dirty syringes and human waste were seeping through the city’s storm drains and contaminating ocean water.
- California officials, including the city’s mayor, publicly disputed Trump’s claim.
- The president said that he expected the Environmental Protection Agency would make a formal announcement acknowledging the supposed violations sometime within the next week.
- In an email to Insider, the EPA said it could not comment on potential enforcement actions.
- Visit Insider’s homepage for more stories.
In his latest spat with Californian lawmakers on Wednesday, President Donald Trump said the EPA was preparing to punish the city of San Francisco for environmental violations. The president pointed to used syringes and the city’s homeless population as the main culprits of the alleged infractions.
“They’re in total violation – we’re going to be giving them a notice very soon,” the president said according to The New York Times.
Trump claimed, without evidence, that used needles were being disposed of into the Pacific Ocean, and said a “tremendous” amount of other waste, were breaching the city’s storm drains and contaminating ocean water.
“We can’t have our cities going to hell,” Trump said to reporters aboard Air Force One, according to The Hill. “These are great cities. And we can’t lose our great cities like this.”
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San Francisco’s mayor, London Breed, called the president’s comments ridiculous and disputed, in entirety, his claims that dirty needles and waste were overwhelming the sewage systems.
“To be clear, San Francisco has a combined sewer system, one of the best and most effective in the country, that ensures that all debris that flow into storm drains are filtered out at the city’s wastewater treatment plants,” Breed said in a statement. “No debris flow out into the bay or the ocean.”
Tyler Gamble, a spokesman for the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission similarly refuted Trump’s needle claims in an interview with The San Francisco Chronicle.
“We haven’t had any (recent) problems with syringes,” Gamble said.
In statements made earlier this week, President Trump blamed growing homeless populations in Los Angeles and San Francisco for driving wealthier tenants out of the city and degrading the cities’ “prestige.”
“We have people living in our … best highways, our best streets, our best entrances to buildings and pay tremendous taxes, where people in those buildings pay tremendous taxes, where they went to those locations because of the prestige,” Trump said, according to the Washington Post. Los Angeles and San Francisco are among the most expensive cities to live in the United States.
Trump said the EPA would make a formal announcement about environmental violations within the next week. As of now, it remains unclear exactly what laws or regulation city of San Francisco are violating.
The Environmental Protection Agency did not confirm whether or not an announcement was being prepared, or what, if any, environmental rules San Francisco could be found in violation of.
“EPA does not comment on potential enforcement actions,” an EPA spokesperson said.
Trump’s unending feud with California
Trump’s posturing toward San Francisco represents the latest in an evolving feud between the president and the state. Since his inauguration, California’s Attorney General Xavier Becerra has launched more than 50 lawsuits against the Trump Administration. Just this week, the Trump administration stepped in to revoke California authority to set its own stricter automotive emission standards.
Since officially announcing his reelection campaign earlier this year, the president has spoken out about homelessness, often referencing California by name. At a campaign event earlier this year in Ohio, the president accused the state of playing an outsized role in homeless cases around the US.
“Nearly half of all the homeless people living in the streets in America happen to live in the state of California,” Trump said at the event, according to ABC News. “What they are doing to our beautiful California is a disgrace to our country. It’s a shame the world is looking at it.”
While California legislators fired back at what they saw as ridiculous comments levied by the president, they largely agree on the fact that homelessness is a growing issue in need of solutions.
According to analyses conducted by The San Francisco Chronicle, there are just over 8,000 homeless people on San Francisco’s streets on any given night. That’s a 17% increase from 2017 figures. Further south in Los Angeles the number of currently homeless people hovers around 36,000.
To combat a reported increase in syringe litter, San Francisco’s Health Commission created a city-funded syringe disposal cleanup team. The city has also installed 16 syringe disposal boxes and kiosks spread out across the city.
“In San Francisco, we are focused on advancing solutions to meet the challenges on our streets, not throwing off ridiculous assertions as we board an airplane to leave the state,” Breed said in a statement to The New York Times.
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