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Air Force announces cleanup efforts in Oscoda but some residents remain skeptical

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. 

Now, the Air Force is reversing its decision, saying it has “heard the community’s concerns”. A press release from the Air Force said funds will be used to expand “capture fields” around the base.

Tony Spaniola owns property in Oscoda. He said the announcement is vague. He said he remains skeptical. 

“There is a long history here of false promises. They had no intention to spend the 13.5 million on a cleanup. It’s really telling that they left the community in the dark about this,” Spaniola said.

Spaniola says he wants more specifics. 

“The question is how much and how willingly they are jumping into this. Given the way this has come down I’m concerned, but we’ve got to get the details,” he said.

Cathy Wusterbarth is with the NOW group, which advocates for a cleanup in Oscoda. 

“This has been a traumatic thing for our community. To continue to provide this vague inaction is just more trauma. It’s unacceptable,” she said.

The Air Force did not respond to a request for comment on specific measures it plans to take or how much of the money will be dedicated to a cleanup. The Air Force said it plans to award a contract for the project in July.

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