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An overhead shot of the Oscoda-Wurtsmith airport
United States Geological Survey

After months of pressure from lawmakers and residents, the Air Force has announced it will take steps to address pollution coming from the former Wurtsmith Air Force base in Oscoda. 

Earlier this year calls for a cleanup intensified after the Air Force said it would use a $13.5 million congressional appropriation for more studies at the base. But some federal lawmakers said those funds had been appropriated for a cleanup. 

steve carmody / Michigan Radio

Oscoda residents say they want more specifics about the U.S. Air Force’s latest plan to clean up PFAS contamination seeping from a former Air Force base.

Last week, the Air Force announced it plans to award a $13.5 million contract next month for capturing more of the industrial chemicals that have been linked to serious health problems. The Air Force says the contract will expand the capture fields already in place at the former fire training area and the Central Treatment System located on the former Wurtsmith Air Force Base. 

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

The state of Michigan is suing 17 defendants seeking damages for widespread PFAS contamination. The defendants include industrial giants 3M and DuPont. 

The lawsuit was filed in Washtenaw County Circuit Court on Tuesday.

PFAS are a family of industrial chemicals linked to serious human health issues, including cancer. PFAS have been used in many consumer products and in firefighting foam. 

steve carmody / Michigan Radio

A Defense Department official told a congressional committee that cleaning up PFAS contamination at current and former military bases carries a hefty price tag.

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.

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.  

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.