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Peters, Kildee, and Over 200 Groups, Businesses, and Individuals Urge Stronger Clean-Up Plans for Air Force’s PFAS Pollution in Oscoda

Local, state, and national organizations say current Air Force plans not enough to clean up “forever chemicals” in Oscoda, Huron-Manistee National Forest, and Au Sable River

OSCODA, Mich. (April 21, 2021) — A broad coalition of 40 organizations, more than 20 businesses, and hundreds of individuals is calling on the Air Force to substantially strengthen its proposed interim clean-up plan for PFAS contamination at Clark's Marsh in the Huron-Manistee National Forest near the former Wurtsmith Air Force Base in Oscoda, Michigan.

In a formal public comment letter to the Air Force, the coalition notes that the Air Force's announced plan addresses only a small portion of the contaminated PFAS groundwater plumes impacting Clark's Marsh and the Au Sable River, where public health warnings have been issued against eating fish and wildlife. The group urges the Air Force to fully clean-up those plumes without further delay.

 “The Air Force has been promising to clean up Clark's Marsh for years. Its current proposal barely scratches the surface and puts off meaningful clean-up until well into the future, if at all.” said Tony Spaniola, an attorney and member of the local community group Need Our Water (NOW). “Our community deserves far better than this.”

United States Sen. Gary Peters (D-Mich.) and United States Rep. Dan Kildee (D-Mich.), who represents the district, have also said that the current Air Force plan is not enough. They joined a press conference with representatives from Need Our Water this morning, organized by the National Wildlife Federation and the Michigan League of Conservation Voters.

“The Air Force’s remediation plans are insufficient to address the PFAS contamination coming from Wurtsmith and to prevent significant damage to the environment and the people of Oscoda. That’s why I led an effort with members of the Michigan congressional delegation to push the Air Force to engage with the community in good faith and make substantive changes to their plans,” Peters said. “The advocates and community have been doing incredible work to bring attention to this issue and to push for change, and I’ll continue to work to press the Air Force to take more action. Families in Oscoda have been working on this effort for years, and we can’t wait any longer.”

“I’ve been pretty disappointed with the slow speed and the lack of transparency that the Air Force is showing concerning this issue,” said Kildee. “We expect them to take more significant steps to address this contamination at Wurtsmith. I’m very concerned that the Air Force’s proposed remediation plan still fails to comprehensively address the PFAS plumes spreading in this area.”

The NOW coalition letter calls on the Air Force to make technical revisions to the proposed plan to better capture PFAS contamination in the Clark’s Marsh area, to immediately implement additional clean-up actions to address the full extent of PFAS plumes in the area, and open the Air Force clean-up development process at the front end to include input by community voices.

"What happens in Oscoda serves as a bellwether for the hundreds of PFAS-contaminated military sites nationwide,” said Jennifer Hill, associate director at the National Wildlife Federation Great Lakes Regional Center. “Here in Michigan, we expect the Air Force to abide by Michigan’s new PFAS clean-up standards and to listen to the needs of impacted community members. It's past time to clean up these toxic chemicals that are hurting Michigan’s people, water, fish, and wildlife.”

In March, Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer invoked her authority under the National Defense Authorization Act requesting that the U.S. Air Force meet Michigan’s stronger PFAS clean-up standards.

“Last year, after extensive review and comment from experts and the public, Michigan put in place strong standards for PFAS that are protective of public health. The Air Force owes it to the people of Oscoda to use those standards as it cleans up toxic PFAS contamination from the Wurtsmith Air Force Base,” said Lisa Wozniak, executive director of the Michigan League of Conservation Voters. “Now is the time for the Air Force to do the right thing and adequately clean up its mess that has impacted this community for far too long.”   

Signatories to the letter include groups such as Need Our Water (NOW), the Wurtsmith Community Restoration Advisory Board, the Oscoda Convention and Visitors Bureau, Oscoda Pine River Van Etten Lake Watershed Coalition, Villages of Oscoda Homeowners Associations, Anglers of the Au Sable, Au Sable Chapter of the Michigan Steelhead and Salmon Fishermens Association, Clean Water Action, Ducks Unlimited, Ecology Center, FLOW (For Love of Water), Huron Pines, Michigan Citizens for Water Conservation, Michigan Environmental Council, Michigan League of Conservation Voters, Michigan United Conservation Clubs, and the National Wildlife Federation.

The full press conference from today can be viewed here.

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