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PFAS testing on Van Etten Lake pushed back in Oscoda

bright white foam on shore
Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy
PFAS foam in Van Ettan Lake in Oscoda, Michigan near the former Wurtsmith Air Force Base.

Oscoda residents got a few wins after the U.S. Air Force recently expanded PFAS cleanup actions, but community members say certain areas are being overlooked.

Multiple cleanup systems are in the works to limit contamination from further leaching into Van Etten Lake off the former Wurtsmith Air Force Base, but there are still some data gaps in assessing contamination on the eastside of the lake.

Steve Willis, an environmental manager with the USAF, said some sampling on the lake has started, but the east side will have to be addressed later.

"PFAS signature analysis, soil sampling under the foam — will all be pushed to the next investigation because we just don't have the money to do it now," Willis said at the Feb. 21 Wurtsmith Restoration Advisory Board.

Dave Carmona, a RAB community member, expressed his frustration with the delays and said the USAF keeps "kicking the can down the road."

"We've been talking about the eastside of Van Etten Lake for over five years — and now we're going to be talking about it on a sixth year. To me, that's wrong," Carmona said.

Willis said the USAF has already committed to addressing the eastside of the lake, but future sampling will take place during the USAF's data gap analysis for its remedial investigation.

"We did some additional sampling and investigation as a result of feedback from the RAB," Willis said. "It was locations that were not planned initially, but to address concerns, we took samples. All that has taken time and money, and we're out of both at this point."

Moving forward, community members on the board asked the USAF to prioritize assessing PFAS on the eastside of Van Etten Lake.

See the full presentation from the Feb. 21 RAB meeting below:

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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