Oscoda Press: Peters seeks PFAS remediation funds for Wurtsmith, K.I. Sawyer

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Gary Peters (MI) has led Michigan Congressional delegation members in calling on the Air Force to allocate a portion of the additional $60 million it received for per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) remediation efforts to the ongoing cleanup projects at two Michigan sites. These are the former Wurtsmith Air Force Base in Oscoda and the former K.I. Sawyer Air Force Base in Marquette County.

In a letter to Air Force Secretary Barbara Barrett, the lawmakers – Peters, U.S. Senator Debbie Stabenow (MI) and U.S. Representatives Dan Kildee (MI-05), Debbie Dingell (MI-12), Brenda Lawrence (MI-14), Elissa Slotkin (MI-08), Andy Levin (MI-09), Haley Stevens (MI-11) and Rashida Tlaib (MI-13) – requested that the Air Force prioritize these remediation initiatives.

The Jan. 23 letter, in its entirety, reads as follows:

“Dear Secretary Barrett:

“We are writing to encourage you to prioritize cleanup of PFOS and PFOA contamination at two former Air Force installations in Michigan, Wurtsmith Air Force Base and K.I. Sawyer Air Force Base.

“As you know, the Further Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2020 (P.L. 116-94) signed into law on December 20, 2019, provides an additional $60 million for PFOS and PFOA cleanup at decommissioned military bases, and requires a spend plan no later than 60 days after enacted regarding the use of these additional funds.

“We are concerned that the President’s Budget Request for Fiscal Year 2020 inappropriately allocated insufficient cleanup resources to Wurtsmith and K.I. Sawyer, budgeting only $1.553 million and $4.5 million respectively to each installation. We understand that the Air Force has dozens of former installations that require environmental remediation, however we urge you to utilize this additional funding provided by Congress to expedite PFOS and PFOA remediation at Wurtsmith and K.I. Sawyer.

“We have consistently heard from our constituents who are frustrated with the pace and scope of the Air Force’s cleanup effort. Congress provided this additional $60 million, specifically for PFOS and PFOA remediation at former installations like Wurtsmith and K.I. Sawyer, so that the Air Force can act with urgency and expediency.

“We understand that ‘the Air Force is absolutely committed to the health and safety of our Airmen, their families, and the communities where we serve today and where we served in the past,’ as Assistant Secretary of the Air Force for Installations, Environment, and Energy told the community in Oscoda, Michigan in April 2019. During that visit, Assistant Secretary Henderson acknowledged the ‘slow process’ in addressing PFAS issues across the nearly 200 sites the Air Force is responsible for.

“This additional funding presents an opportunity to expedite environmental remediation efforts necessary for the health and safety of the communities around these former installations.

“Broadly, the issue of PFOA and PFOS contamination is particularly important to us given the discovery of these chemicals at multiple military affiliated installations in Michigan in addition to Wurtsmith and K.I. Sawyer including: Camp Grayling, Selfridge Air National Guard Base, Alpena Combat Readiness Training Center, Escanaba Defense Fuel Supply Point, Battle Creek Air National Guard Base, Grand Ledge Army Aviation Support Facility, and Kincheloe Air Force Base. 

“We look forward to continuing to engage with you and your Department of Defense colleagues on appropriately addressing PFAS contamination at these military sites.

“We thank you, as well as Assistant Secretary Henderson, for your ongoing attention to these critical matters.”

Serving on the Senate Armed Services Committee, and as Ranking Member of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, Peters’ office says he has led numerous efforts to increase resources for PFAS remediation efforts and confront this crisis across the state.

Peters, during the visit to Oscoda with Henderson last April, held a joint public forum in which he urged the Air Force to do more to mitigate PFAS contamination in the area.

He also helped secure bipartisan provisions that were signed into law in December to address PFAS contamination in Michigan and across the country, including phasing out the Department of Defense’s use of firefighting foam with PFAS.

Further, Peters enacted a provision he worked on with Stabenow, which aims to increase coordination on PFAS remediation efforts between the Pentagon and states.

Source: Oscoda Press