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Federal officials, impacted communities testify at PFAS hearing

Federal officials testify at the Aug. 1 PFAS hearing, hosted by Senator Gary Peters.
Teresa Homsi
Federal officials testify at the Aug. 1 PFAS hearing in East Lansing, hosted by Michigan Senator Gary Peters. Peters is the Chairman of the Senate's committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs.

Michigan Senator Gary Peters held a hearing yesterday on federal efforts to clean up, and prevent, PFAS contamination.

PFAS are a group of compounds that are dangerous to human health. Witnesses from across the state who have been impacted by PFAS exposure gave statements and calls for action.

Lt. Col. Craig Minor is a retired air force captain. He was stationed at the former Wurtsmith Airforce Base in Oscoda. In his testimony, Minor said the air force needs to take responsibility for service members and their families, who drank PFAS-contaminated water from the base.

“The burn pit was on foreign soil. Agent Orange was on foreign soil," he said. "But this is on American soil. We need to do something.”

Minor said he would like to see the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs address contamination on military bases. Senator Peters is the Chairman of the Senate's Homeland Security & Government Affairs committee and member of the Armed Services Committee.

Minor's testimony was one of several from the hearing. Other witnesses also expressed desires for federal officials to invest in PFAS research, create a multi-agency federal response team and expand PFAS remediation through the Superfund law, among other demands.

Minor says he would like to see the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs address contamination on military bases.

Federal officials from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Department of Health, and Department of also testified on their efforts to address PFAS contamination.

Peters asked an air force representative to make a commitment to following Michigan’s PFAS standards and clean up the Oscoda base with more urgency.

“After 13 years of investigation, there’s no clean-up plan in place… that it’s going to take another two to five years before such a plan is adopted," Peters said. "I think I speak for everyone in the area that this [timeline] is simply unacceptable.”

Oscoda residents at the meeting were visibly frustrated during the air force testimony and said they’ve heard false promises before.

Peters said testimonies from the hearing will help inform future federal legislation.

Teresa Homsi is an environmental reporter and Report for America Corps Member based in northern Michigan for WCMU. She covers rural environmental issues, focused on contamination, conservation, and climate change.