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Health, Science and Environment

Oscoda environmental group ‘blindsided’ by Air Force plans to clean up PFAS

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U.S. Air Force

The U.S. Air Force published a new proposal for a cleanup plan at the former Wurtsmith Air Force Base in Oscoda this week, but a local environmental group said they were “blindsided” by the announcement.

The Air Force proposed three options for cleaning up dangerous PFAS chemicals around the base.

The chemicals were used in firefighting foam and have been linked to a variety of health problems, including cancer.

Tony Spaniola owns a home near the base and is on the leadership team of Need Our Water, a local group pushing for PFAS testing and removal. He said the Air Force didn’t consult with local residents before making its cleanup proposals, and that will further delay a process that has already dragged out for more than a decade.

In the meantime, Spaniola said, the local environment suffers.

“What continues to happen in Oscoda is that VanEtten Lake, the Au Sable River, Clark’s Marsh and, ultimately, Lake Huron are being contaminated continuously. We’re talking continuous flow every minute of every hour of every day,” he said.

Need Our Water said experts affiliated with the group are looking at the proposals to decide if they’re good enough to handle the contamination.

“They’re going to go through to find out if the proposed remedy is adequate,” Spaniola said. “Are they using the best technology? Are they adequately covering that area? Are they attacking the full source of the problem?”

The Air Force said it is following federal procedures for hazardous materials responses, has provided updates to a group of local stakeholders every three months, and welcomes feedback during a month-long public comment period that starts this week

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