Pentagon expands PFAS clean-up in Oscoda, reflecting national policy change
With the rallying cry "clean our water," Oscoda residents took to the streets earlier this year to demand four additional clean-up measures on the former Wurtsmith Air Force Base.
The state and several lawmakers supported the actions, but they were initially rejected by the Air Force last fall.
Now, the Department of Defense (DoD) is changing its approach to PFAS-contaminated sites, starting in Oscoda. The DoD officially announcedThursday that two of the clean-up measures residents had been demanding will be implemented at Wurtsmith.
Tony Spaniola is a national PFAS advocate and Oscoda homeowner. He said the clean-up expansion is the first exercise of a new, Wurtsmith-inspired DoD policy, referenced in the announcement.
"[The July 11 policy directive] was based on the plan that we developed at Oscoda... to stop the bleeding of PFAS contaminants into the community," Spaniola said. "This is the Wurtsmith model being used as a roadmap for cleanups at all military installations.”
At the Aug. 16 Wurtsmith Restoration Advisory Board (RAB) meeting, Maj. Kate Lynnes, a remediation manager with the Air Force, said the DoD will bring in more remediation experts and leverage existing infrastructure at the base to expand clean-up.
“I acknowledge that it hasn’t been fast enough, but we’ve heard you," Lynnes said. "This isn’t just more study. I know everyone’s tired of studies. This is the kind of expedited process that lets us do it right.”
The clean-up measures will target contaminated groundwater at sites DRMO and Landfills LF-30 & 31, which are leaching PFAS into Van Etten Lake.
The actions are technically "interim," but Spaniola said they fit into a long-term, clean-up plan. He added that he's optimistic "for the first time" the two other proposed actions will eventually be implemented.
"These are just the first tier of remedies," Spaniola said. "I like to think of it like putting a fence around the base and taking the time to clean up the mess in the middle."
The announcement has been lauded by members of Michigan’s congressional delegation and Governor Gretchen Whitmer.
Under the July 11 DoD directive, nearly 500 military installations withconfirmedPFAS contamination are expected to implement similar interim clean-up actions. The policy aims to limit the environmental and health impacts of contamination.