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DEQ sends violation notice to U.S. Air Force over slow Oscoda air-base clean up

United States Geological Survey

The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality sent the U.S. Air Force a violation notice Friday for lagging on its clean up of the Wurtsmith Air Force Base in Oscoda.

The notice found that water in Clark’s Marsh, near the Air Base, had perfluoroalkyl substances at levels over one hundred times higher than the surface water quality standard of 12 parts per trillion.

Firefighting foams used at the base are known to have leaked perfluoroalkyl substances into nearby groundwater. PFAs are a family of chemicals that have been linked to cancer and other health problems in humans. 

Scott Dean is with the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality. He said this is the second violation notice they’ve sent the Air Force this year.

“This slow response by the Air Force to the Wurtsmith contamination is having an increasingly negative impact on the people, wildlife, and the environment in Oscoda.”

Aaron Weed is the Oscoda Township Supervisor. He said the findings come as no surprise - the DNR recently issued a warning against eating deer killed near the base.

“The foam on the water, the contaminated fish, the contaminated deer are all symptoms of the problem. I want more filtration, I want more remediation, and I want it quickly.”

Dean said the DEQ is calling on the Air Force to increase its cleanup efforts.

“We are calling upon the Air Force to accelerate treatment activity at the base. We are asking for a four-fold increase in pumping and treatment activity around the area near Clark’s Marsh.”

In a written statement, members of the Michigan PFAs action team said it will use “every regulatory and legal means necessary to force the Air Force to address this contamination.”

The Air Force did not respond to our request for comment.