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Congressman Kildee threatens congressional action against Air Force over Oscoda pollution cleanup

United State's Geological Survey

A virtual meeting between Oscoda residents and Air Force officials on Wednesday about pollution clean up at the former Wurtsmith Air force base turned into a stand off between the Air Force and a member of congress.

Oscoda residents said the Air Force has been investigating contamination coming from the former air base for over a decade.

But Air Force officials said they are going to use the latest funding for the site, roughly $13.5 million, for more studies.

David Gibson is an Air Force engineer. He said it could be 2024 before any remediation actions are taken.

“Let’s get the data collected in the best manner possible to progress the RI and get to the point where we have sufficient data to progress these interim actions.”

US Congressman Dan Kildee spoke out at that point. He said the money was appropriated for clean up purposes.

“I know what the intent was. I’m the member of congress that helped push this through along with my colleagues. So I’m asking the Air Force to use the majority of this money that we intended to use for mitigation efforts for the purposes they were intended for.”

Kildee said he understands the frustration of residents with how the Air Force has responded.

“In the 40 minutes I’ve been listening to this call I have come to have a much better understanding of the source of their frustration. If it takes additional action by congress believe me, this has been an informative conversation for me, and I will make sure we take additional action.”

Kildee has clarified his comments saying if the Air Force needs to be hauled in front of a committee and asked why $13 million of clean up money is only going to produce a report he's "happy to do it." 

Cathy Wusterbarth is with the NOW Group, which has called for the Air Force to take remediation actions. She said the meeting was frustrating.

“This is really incomprehensible that the Air Force would take funds that were specifically allocated to stop the bleeding of these contaminants to do more investigation.”

Robert A. Tasior is a member of the community advisory board that meets with the Air Force. He said he believes the failure to hold the Air Force accountable lies, at least in part, with the state of Michigan.

“If the state really wants to do something, get Dana Nessel up here and let's get a court action going against the United States Air Force because they are not in compliance. That’s what we need to happen.”

A spokesperson for the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy disagreed with Tasior’s characterization. They said the state has issued multiple violation notices to the Air Force and is involved in several dispute resolution issues - including regarding Air Force surface water contamination in the region.

The Air Force - who did not respond to our request for comment - still maintains control over how the federal  money will be used.