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wurtsmith air force base

steve carmody / Michigan Radio

It appears the United States Air Force is in no hurry to abide by Governor Gretchen Whitmer’s request to use Michigan’s standards for cleaning up PFAS contamination at a former Air Force base.

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

Governor Gretchen Whitmer is hoping that a federal law will be able to help speed up Department of Defense cooperation with cleaning up contamination from per- and polyfluoralalkyl sybstances, or PFAS, in Oscoda Township near Wurtsmith Air Force Base.

In 2020, the National Defense Authorization Act included section 332. It allows a governor to request changes or an entirely new cooperative agreement over remediation at sites by PFAS as a result of DOD activities.

Former Wurtsmith AFB, Oscoda, Michigan (file photo)
Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

The Air Force met with Oscoda residents on Wednesday to discuss plans for how they'll use millions of dollars earmarked for cleanup of the former Wurtsmith Air Force base.

The former airbase has been a known source of PFAs pollution for nearly 10 years, leading to “do not eat” advisories for local wildlife and warnings posted around the local lake.

PFAs are a family of chemicals linked to cancer and other health problems found at sites across the state, including at Wurtsmith.

steve carmody / Michigan Radio

A Michigan congressman wants to see the United States Air Force focus more on cleaning up PFAS contamination at a former Air Force base in northern Michigan.

Representative Dan Kildee (D-Flint) says there's been too much focus on studying the problem.

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. 

Breanne Humphreys / U.S. Air Force

The U.S. Air Force says it will prioritize the PFAS cleanup at the former Wurtsmith Air Force Base in Oscoda, Michigan, allocating an additional $13.5 million for the effort.

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

Cape Canaveral might have a bit of competition up here in the north. The Oscoda-Wurtsmith Airport near Lake Huron is being considered as a spot for a horizontal rocket launch site. Stateside spoke to Justin Kasper, a professor with the Department of Climate and Space Sciences and Engineering at the University of Michigan, about how the site might be used and Michigan’s past and future place in the space industry. 

Ben Cooper / Spaceflight Now

Political and business officials in Michigan are trying to win permission to make a former Northeast Michigan Air Force base into a rocket launch site.

Wurtsmith Air Force Base was decommissioned in 1993 and is now a smaller regional airport. But economic developers now hope the airport can be used as what they’re calling a “space 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

Chanting “Nine Years, No Plan, No Action,” Oscoda residents rallied on Tuesday outside a town hall meeting reviewing the cleanup of PFAS contamination seeping from the former Wurtsmith Air Force Base.

The chemicals are from firefighting foam used by the U.S. Air Force (USAF) for decades. PFAS have been detected not only on the former air field, but in the groundwater and in nearby waterways.

PFAS foam on lakeshore
Michigan Department of Environmental Quality / Flickr http://bit.ly/1xMszCg

The state of Michigan and the US Air Force have reached an agreement to speed up PFAS contamination cleanup around the former Wurtsmith Air Force Base.

But not everyone in the city of Oscoda is impressed.

PFAS foam on the Huron River.
Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

Michigan officials say they’ve reached an agreement with the U.S. Air Force to speed up action to clean up PFAS contamination at the former Wurtsmith Air Force base in Oscoda.

The plan includes accelerated action to treat contaminated water and to step up investigating spots where firefighting foam may have been used or tested. Firefighting foam is a known source of PFAS chemicals.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

A top Pentagon official told an audience in Oscoda on Wednesday that another four years of study are needed on the PFAS contamination seeping from the former Wurtsmith Air Force Base.

The industrial chemicals present a threat to human health. They've been used in firefighting foam on U.S. military bases.

John Henderson is an Assistant Secretary of the U.S. Air Force. He says the Pentagon would like to move faster on cleanup efforts, but it has to be careful.

“We continue to study aggressively, as quickly as we can, what the extent of the problem is,” says Henderson. "So when we do get a solution, it’s the right solution. We get it right the first time.”

steve carmody / Michigan Radio

Oscoda residents will meet with high ranking U.S. Air Force officials this week to discuss the cleanup of PFAS contamination at the former Wurtsmith Air Force base.

Assistant Secretary of the Air Force for Installations, Environment and Energy, John Henderson, will hold a public forum in Oscoda next Wednesday, April 24 at 4 p.m. at the Oscoda Township Community Center.

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.

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.