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DOD looks to Camp Grayling, Wurtsmith for ways to improve communication

Michigan National Guard

How transparent and responsive do you think the Department of Defense has been regarding cleanup efforts? What concerns do you have about how the installation is communicating? What aspects of communication have been successful?

—These are just a few questions DOD officials are asking stakeholders as part of an initiative to improve communication at contaminated military sites.

The DOD is looking to Grayling and Oscoda for feedback on the military’s Restoration Advisory Boards (RABs) – which field questions and keep the public updated on clean-up.

Susan Thiel is a community co-chair on the Camp Grayling RAB. She said she’s not sure yet what the initiative will become but hopes it may mean more public engagement.

“If they can provide some of that physical, or the financial aspects, like, ‘hey, we want some posters to put around town because we're going to give this presentation or we're having a RAB meeting...'" Thiel said.

Thiel said she recognizes the initiative is focused on how the DOD engages with contaminated communities – and that it’s not necessarily meant to advance clean-up in Grayling or Oscoda.

“They're not coming to learn about our contamination site," Thiel said. "They're coming to evaluate us as a RAB, what works, what doesn't. They're dealing with these all over, and they're trying to decide if it's worth investing in or not.”

Some residents say they’re cautiously optimistic about the initiative and see opportunities for improvement, but DOD efforts to improve transparency have also been called a “dog and pony show.”

In an email with WCMU, a DOD spokesperson said Camp Grayling and the former Wurtsmith Air Force Base were chosen - along with four other sites across the country - to include a variety of military departments.

The DOD said the initiative is ongoing and "we intend to continuously and consistently update communication methods and products designed to convey messages about DoD’s cleanup activities."

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.
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