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wurtsmith air force base

Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

One of the contaminated PFAS sites first documented in Michigan was in Oscoda Township near the former Wurtsmith Air Force Base. The base has been closed for years.  Firefighting training there used a fire suppressant foam containing a PFAS chemical.

The former Wurtsmith Air Force base.
Mike Fritcher / Flickr - http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

Congressman Dan Kildee and U.S. Senator Debbie Stabenow want to help veterans who were exposed to industrial chemicals known as PFAS.

That’s why they introduced legislation September 28 to help those veterans and their families get the healthcare they need.

In recent months, the State of Michigan has found several places where drinking water and fish are contaminated by a class of chemicals called PFAS. This pollution is coming from a variety of sources.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

Starting Friday, a new water plant will begin treating contaminated groundwater near the old Wurtsmith Air Force Base in Oscoda.

The base was decommissioned in 1993. But man-made chemicals known as PFAS (Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances) have been slowly leaching into the neighboring community’s groundwater for decades.  

The former Wurtsmith Air Force base.
Mike Fritcher / Flickr - http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

The Oscoda-Wurtsmith Airport Authority has been awarded a $60,000 grant to investigate chemical contaminants.

The airport, which is on the site of the former Wurtsmith Air Force Base, is a known site of several chemical contaminants, including PFAs - which are linked to cancer among other maladies.

steve carmody / Michigan Radio

State and federal officials say they expect to make headway this year on an underground chemical plume expanding from a former Air Force base.

The chemicals (perfluorooctanesulfonic acid (PFOS) and perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) are linked to firefighter training on the former Wurtsmith Air Force Base. The firefighters used the foaming chemicals to extinguish jet fuel fires starting in the 1960s. The base closed in the 1990s. But while Wurtsmith’s been closed for decades,  the chemical plume continues spreading through the groundwater into local wells and nearby open water.

Ross and Donna Tingley
Kaye LaFond / Michigan Radio

At least 14 communities in Michigan have water contaminated with a family of chemicals known as per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, or PFAS.

One of those sites, in West Michigan, has gotten a lot of attention recently. This month, the state abruptly announced a cleanup standard for PFAS.

But these chemicals have been a pollution problem in the state for years.

In Oscoda, some residents are wondering why remediation is taking so long.

Courtesy Photo / Air National Guard | Tech. Sgt. Nic Kuetemeyer

A combat center in northern Michigan has become the third military installation in the state to test positive for contaminated groundwater.

Capt. Brian Blumline says preliminary results came in this week for tests conducted at five locations at the Alpena Combat Readiness Training Center earlier this year. He says all the sites showed elevated levels of perfluorooctanoic acid and perfluorooctyl sulfonate.

The contaminants are from fire-fighting foam that used to be involved in training at the base.

A map of the area in Oscoda Township surrounding the now closed Wurtsmith Air Force Base is shown. The red area is the base, while the area outlined in yellow is considered the affected area.
Courtesy of District Health Department No. 2

There’s an irony in Michigan. We are surrounded by the Great Lakes and have access to vast supplies of water. However, there are plenty of examples of water issues across the state. From the Flint water crisis, to the city of Ann Arbor's problem with 1,4 dioxane in the ground water. There's also dioxin in Midland and the oil spill in the Kalamazoo River

Recently, we added the contamination near Oscoda to that list of water problems in Michigan. The source looks to be the former Wurtsmith Air Force Base, which closed in 1993.

The former Wurtsmith Air Force base.
Mike Fritcher / Flickr - http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

There could be new proof that veterans and their families were exposed to perflourinated chemicals (PFCs) in their drinking water at the former Wurtsmith Air Force base in Oscoda. 

The base closed in 1993.

The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality is wrapping up its analysis of water found trapped in long-forgotten fire hydrants on the base. The results are part of a not-yet-released draft report by the MDEQ.

The former Wurtsmith Air Force base.
Mike Fritcher / Flickr - http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

Congressman Dan Kildee wants the Air Force to do more to help Oscoda residents whose groundwater is contaminated by perfluorinated chemicals, or PFCs. The Wurtsmith Air Force Base used firefighting foams containing PFCs on its property in Oscoda for decades. The base is now closed.

Kildee sent a letter to the Air Force this week, outlining a long list of concerns.

Oscoda residents talk with government officials about the PFC plumes contaminating their wells.
Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

Residents of a northern Michigan town are getting briefed today on a threat to their drinking water.

For decades, fire crews trained at Wurtsmith Air Force Base not far from Lake Huron. But while the base closed more than 20 years ago, the chemicals used to extinguish the flames continue to seep into nearby wells and streams.

The plumes of perfluorinated chemicals (PFCs) have been migrating from the former air force base into surrounding neighborhoods and the Au Sable River. PFCs have also been detected in fish in Lake Huron.