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Oscoda residents, Kildee demand action on PFAS cleanup

 OSCODA–Oscoda residents and U.S. Rep. Dan Kildee, D-Flint,  urged the U.S. Air Force to take action on cleanup of PFAS contamination stemming from the Wurtsmith Air Force Base, at a virtual press conference on Tuesday.

The press conference was held ahead of a PFAS Town Hall held by the state on Tuesday evening and a Wurtsmith Restoration Advisory Board Meeting with the Air Force on Wednesday.

“I am concerned that the Air Force is continuing to conduct studies and delay clean up at Wurtsmith Air Force Base. They need to clean up these toxic chemicals and ensure that there is no more PFAS going into Lake Van Etten,” Kildee said. “This year’s Military Construction spending bill, planned on being voted on at the end of the week, contains $200 million to clean up PFAS contamination at former military installations. The Air Force has no excuses, they have the resources to quickly clean up PFAS at Wurtsmith and they must do it now.”

Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) are a family of industrial chemicals that have been linked to health issues, including cancer, thyroid conditions, auto-immune diseases and reproductive issues.

In Oscoda, the chemicals come from firefighting foam used for decades by the U.S. Air Force at the Wurtsmith Air Force Base and have made their way into groundwater and nearby waterways. Advocates have been calling on the Air Force to clean up PFAS contamination for at least a decade.

“It is unacceptable that the Air Force is holding on to money that was finally set aside for Oscoda PFAS cleanup with no communication and no plan to address the problem. The number one priority must be to clean up the plumes entering Lake Van Etten and ensure we have safe water” Martha Gottlieb, NOW, Oscoda Member, said. “We’ve had enough meetings and enough studies, it’s time for the Air Force to take action and actually clean up the contamination that threatens our families.” 

The Air Force announced earlier this year, after pressure from Oscoda residents and lawmakers, it would use a $13.5 million congressional appropriation for cleanup rather than for more studies as it originally stated when the money was appropriated. Given the Air Force’s track record of lack of follow through with commitments to PFAS contamination, Oscoda residents remain skeptical.

“Our community has been devastated by PFAS contamination, which has also impacted our economy, our tourism, our beautiful natural resources, and most of all our health,” Robert Tasior, Former Restoration Advisory Board member and Vice Chair of the Oscoda Township Planning Commission, said. “The only response from the Air Force we’ve gotten is they are investigating. After 10 years, we’ve had enough investigating. We need action on cleanup, and we will continue working to hold the Air Force accountable for cleaning up its mess.”

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