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Skepticism greets commitment of $13.5 million for Wurtsmith AF Base PFAS cleanup

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.

PFAS chemicals from firefighting activities on the base contaminated the groundwater nearby.

Aaron Weed is the Oscoda Township Supervisor.

He says he's glad to hear about the additional funding. But he says for eight years, he's been asking the Air Force to do an actual cleanup.

Wurtsmith Air Force Base
Credit U.S. Air Force
U.S. Air Force
FORMER WURTSMITH AIR FORCE BASE, Mich. -- Dave Strainge, Air Force Civil Engineer Center environmental coordinator for the former Wurtsmith Air Force Base, puts up a fishing advisory sign June 26, 2013, on the AuSable River, as part of actions to advise residents of the presence of perflourinated compounds, an emerging contaminant found in fish samples taken from the river in 2012.

So he has lost trust.

"My concern is are they actually going to apply it to remediation action? And if they do, then that's wonderful," says Weed.  "But in the past, they have resisted so much in trying to do proper remediation that there's a trust level that's been lost.  I'm concerned that they're going to want to use it more for doing additional research.  We already have a clear idea of where this contamination is and how to treat it."

In a letter, an Air Force official says the funding will be used for the "remedial investigation."

The remedial investigation provides critical information on the nature and extent of contamination to conduct interim remedial actions, if needed, including the construction of additional treatment systems or expansion of current treatment systems.

Weed says there are about 450 homes in an "area of concern," near the contaminated groundwater coming from the base.

He says about 120 homes have been taken off contaminated wells and hooked up to a municipal water system.  Another 100 will be hooked up to the water system this year.


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Tracy Samilton covers energy and transportation, including the auto industry and the business response to climate change for Michigan Public. She began her career at Michigan Public as an intern, where she was promptly “bitten by the radio bug,” and never recovered.
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