Elected Officials, Activists Call on Air Force to Follow Michigan Guidelines in Wurtsmith Cleanup

Contaminated areas near Wurtsmith Air Force Base in Oscoda County aren’t being taken care of to the liking of local, state and federal leaders. In a conference call Wednesday, April 21, activists from Need Our Water (NOW), U.S. Senator Gary Peters and U.S. Congressman Dan Kildee addressed what they call the lack of proper response by the Air Force to meet Michigan’s stringent PFAS cleanup standards.

PFAS, or per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, are man made chemicals with uses in things like Teflon and firefighting foam. The chemicals are contaminating the area of Clark’s Marsh and the Au Sable River near the base. Michigan has passed stringent standards on cleanup of the chemicals.

However, the Air Force claims federal law bars it from adopting state law on the clean up, and has received widespread criticism because of that claim. Tony Spaniola, a member of NOW and an attorney, says the Air Force has promised to conduct cleanup of the sites, but has reneged on that promise. He also says the Air Force barred local elected officials and community members from helping draft remediation plans after they someone questioned Air Force officials about missing and destroyed documents pertaining to the contamination and that those plans are drafted in secret thousands of miles away by people with no experience in the community.

Both Kildee and Peters say the Air Force’s current response is too slow and inadequate, though the Air Force says its treatment will meet the state’s standards even though it isn’t designed to do so.

NOW, Sen. Peters, Congressman Kildee and other stakeholders have drafted a letter to the Air Force, asking it to meet the state’s PFAS clean up standards. The NOW coalition letter calls on the Air Force to make technical revisions to the proposed plan to better capture PFAS contamination in the Clark’s Marsh area, to immediately implement additional clean-up actions to address the full extent of PFAS plumes in the area, and open the Air Force clean-up development process at the front end to include input by community voices.