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Trump threatens to punish San Francisco over filth, needles and pollution

Benjamin Oreskes and Colleen Shalby, Los Angeles Times on

Published in Political News

President Donald Trump ratcheted up his attacks on California over its homeless crisis, threatening San Francisco with some type of violation notice for what he described as environmental pollution.

He said "tremendous pollution" was flowing into the ocean because of waste in storm sewers, specifically citing used needles. It was unclear what Trump was referring to, and there was not clarification about what rules San Francisco supposedly violated.

"It's a terrible situation -- that's in Los Angeles and in San Francisco," Trump said, according to a pool report from Air Force One. "And we're going to be giving San Francisco -- they're in total violation -- we're going to be giving them a notice very soon."

He added: "EPA is going to be putting out a notice. They're in serious violation. ... They have to clean it up. We can't have our cities going to hell."

EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler declined to comment on the president's statement. Asked about it at a news conference Thursday morning, Wheeler responded: "I can't comment on potential enforcement action."

Mayor London Breed called Trump's remarks "ridiculous" and said storm drain debris is filtered out at city wastewater treatment plants so that none flows "into the bay or ocean."

 

San Francisco has long struggled with problems of human waste and needles on the streets in the Tenderloin district, where many addicts and homeless people are found. The city set up public toilets and last year announced formation of a special six-person "poop patrol" team to clean up the human waste.

The city also announced funding to hire people to pick up used needles.

Many of those needles came from the city itself. The health department hands out an estimated 400,000 clean syringes a month under programs designed to reduce the risk of HIV and other infections for drug users who might otherwise share contaminated needles.

In a statement, Breed said the city is fighting homelessness by adding 1,000 beds to shelters and wants to pass a $600-million bond to build affordable housing and increase services for people with addiction and mental illness.

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