Michigan Delegation Members Announce $13.5 Million for PFAS Cleanup Efforts at Former Wurtsmith Air Force Base

Thursday, February 27, 2020

Members of the Michigan Congressional delegation today announced that the Air Force will allocate $13.5 million towards PFAS remediation efforts around the former Wurtsmith Air Force Base in Oscoda. This funding comes from $60 million that Congress had recently provided the Department of Defense to spend to address PFAS contamination at decommissioned bases around the country. Last month, U.S. Senator Debbie Stabenow (MI) – along with U.S. Senator Gary Peters (MI) and U.S. Representatives Dan Kildee (MI-05), Debbie Dingell (MI-12), Brenda Lawrence (MI-14), Elissa Slotkin (MI-08), Andy Levin (MI-09), Haley Stevens (MI-11) and Rashida Tlaib (MI-13) – wrote to Air Force Secretary Barbara Barrett requesting that the Air Force prioritize Wurtsmith Air Force Base and key former military installations in Michigan.


“PFAS contamination is a growing threat to public health in Michigan,” said Senator Stabenow. “This is an important step forward but we all need to stay vigilant to making sure we clean up this contamination in this community and across the state.”


“When I brought Assistant Air Force Secretary Henderson to Oscoda last year, the message was clear: the Air Force must do more to cleanup PFAS contamination that has devastated the Oscoda community,” said Senator Peters. “I joined my colleagues in pressing for more funding at Wurtsmith because Michiganders deserve answers and actions. This funding is an important step towards stopping the continued spread of PFAS contamination from the former base, and reducing PFAS exposure in the community. I’m going to continue pushing for additional action and federal resources to address this crisis.”


“For years, I, along with Senators Peters and Stabenow, have been advocating for the Department of Defense to allocate more money to clean up toxic PFAS chemicals at former Wurtsmith Air Force base,” said Congressman Kildee. “Oscoda residents and families have been waiting far too long for the Air Force to act more urgently. I am happy to see the Department of Defense finally provide funding to clean up PFAS at Wurtsmith, but still more funding is needed to protect Oscoda residents from PFAS leeching into the drinking water. I will continue to fight with my Senate colleagues for funding for Wurtsmith until all of the toxic PFAS chemicals are cleaned up.”


“More funding for PFAS cleanup in Michigan is welcome news. Wurtsmith Air Force base has been contaminated for far too long and I’m pleased the Air Force is allocating more funding to help clean up this site,” said Congresswoman Dingell.


“This is great news that the Air Force saw fit to take action on PFAS contamination. For too long, the EPA and industry have ignored its threats”, said Congresswoman Lawrence. “The government has a responsibility to ensure the well-being of every family, woman, and child who are affected by these chemicals.”


“When it comes to our water, we need to think about environmental security the way we think about homeland security -- because it's about our safety and our way of life in Michigan,” said Congresswoman Slotkin. “It's certainly welcome news that the Air Force is dedicating significant funds to help clean up the area around Wurtsmith Air Force base. There is a lot more the Department of Defense needs to do to stem the flow of PFAS, and clean up contaminated communities in our state like Oscoda, but this represents an important step that will have a direct impact on the health and safety of Michigan families.”


“PFAS contamination is one of the greatest environmental and public health threats facing Michigan families, and we need adequate resources to address this emerging crisis,” said Congresswoman Haley Stevens. “I am glad to see the Air Force answered our call to allocate federal funds to cleanup efforts around the former Wurtsmith Air Force Base in Oscoda.”


“I am encouraged to see the Air Force allocate funding to address what has been described as Michigan's biggest environmental crisis in 40 years: PFAS contamination,” said Congresswoman Tlaib. “I thank Senator Peters for his leadership in the call for the Air Force to make this much-needed allocation, and I look forward to the progress it will make toward getting these cancer-causing chemicals reduced, if not eliminated, from the water, soil, and wildlife of the communities surrounding former Wurtsmith and K.I. Sawyer Air Force bases.”


“Senator Gary Peters has led the fight for action at Wurtsmith,” said Tony Spaniola, Member of Need Our Water (NOW) and Oscoda property owner. “We applaud him and members of Michigan’s Congressional delegation for securing this funding. We will continue working together to press the Air Force to clean up critical hot spots without further delay.


“I am excited to see that the Air Force is now taking stronger financial steps to contend with the contamination stemming from Wurtsmith AFB,” said Aaron Weed, Supervisor, Charter Township of Oscoda. “The Air Force has obligated very little funds in the past to treat the PFAS contamination seeping from this former air base, but I am hopeful the $13.5mil they are now obligating will be used to stop the PFAS from continuing to contaminate our ground and surface waters. I thank all the Senators and Congressmen who joined this effort urging the Air Force to take this action.”


“For the past 4 years, the Need Our Water (NOW) action group in Oscoda worked side-by-side with Senator Peters to raise awareness of PFAS contamination resulting from the former Wurtsmith Air Force Base,” said NOW co-lead Cathy Wusterbarth. “Senator Peters has repeatedly called on the Air Force to accelerate remediation activities in Oscoda, and we’re glad he and Michigan Members of Congress were able to get millions towards cleanup around Wurtsmith Air Force Base.”


The Air Force’s letter to the lawmakers regarding the additional funding can be found by clicking here.


Serving on the Senate Armed Services Committee and as Ranking Member of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, Peters has led numerous efforts to increase resources for PFAS remediation efforts. During a visit to the former Wurtsmith Base last April with Assistant Air Force Secretary for Installations, Environment and Energy John Henderson, Peters held a joint public forum in which he urged the Air Force to do more to mitigate PFAS contamination in the area.


Peters helped secure bipartisan provisions that were signed into law in December to address PFAS contamination in Michigan and across the country, including a provision that will phase out the Department of Defense’s use of firefighting foam containing PFAS. Peters also helped enact a provision he worked on with Senator Stabenow that aims to increase coordination on PFAS remediation efforts between the Department of Defense and states.