The EPA Redacted Its Discussions About Trump's Toilet Obsession

An EPA employee on Trump's war against environmentally friendly toilets: 'I can't even.'
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Image: Alex Wong / Getty Images

The Environmental Protection Agency has heavily redacted its correspondence with the Trump administration about the president's toilet obsession. Meaning the White House’s extended thoughts on low-flow toilets, it seems, is a state secret.

In a 296 page document obtained via Freedom of Information Act request and posted on Government Attic, a website that catalogs FOIAs, the EPA shared hundreds of emails about Trump’s obsession with toilet standards. The emails are mostly anodyne and large sections of them have been redacted with the White House citing executive privilege.

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In a December 2019 meeting at the White House, Trump talked about how hard it is to find a quality toilet these days. He returned to the topic during a rally for supporters at Battle Creek, Michigan in January. “Ten times, right, ten times," Trump said, referring to the number of flushes it takes to discharge the load in an "environmentally friendly" toilet. "Not me, of course not me. But you."

“I can’t even,” Veronica Blette, EPA’s head of WaterSense, which deals with wastewater management, said in an email to colleagues where she’d embedded a tweet showing Trump’s commode comments.

“A friend of mine sent this to me. Thought I'd share in case you hadn't seen. Watch when you're already in a bad mood because it is not good news,” Robert Pickering—who works for the Eastern Research Group, a consulting firm that works with the EPA—said in an email to colleagues.

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Large swaths of the response are redacted, citing exception 5 of the Freedom of Information Act—deliberative process. Deliberative Process is a synonym for “executive privilege,” meaning that the White House believes withholding its conversations about the flow of toilet water is in the public interest.

His comments led Plumbing Manufacturers International, a trade group that includes many toilet manufacturers, to request a meeting with top EPA officials "face-to-face to discuss recent comments made by President Trump concerning low-flow plumbing products and the agency's review of these water efficient plumbing products.” It is unclear if this meeting ever happened.

The bulk of the emails are from reporters reaching out to the EPA and other government agencies for comment and clarification about Trump’s toilet comments. In others, government employees vent their frustrations.

Andrew Wheeler, the EPA’s Administrator, received an angry email from someone in Utah whose name was redacted from the documents for privacy reasons. “Sir, after doing a lot of family research which involves 10 adults and 7 young children (under 11 years old) this conclusion was reached. Adults…1 flush per visit. Children…all but one 4 year old states they only need one flush to empty the toilet bowl,” the email said. “Trump and the GOP whom ignore what is in their face and now discuss toilettes should all be flushed down trumps [sic] fancy toilette and I’m ok with the 15 flushes. Well worth it.”