04.25.19

During Visit with Key Air Force Official, Peters Presses Air Force to Do More to Cleanup PFAS Contamination in Oscoda

Following Senator’s Invitation, Assistant Secretary Henderson and Peters Met with Michiganders Impacted by PFAS Exposure at Former Wurtsmith Air Force Base

OSCODA, MI – U.S. Senator Gary Peters (MI) hosted Assistant Secretary of the Air Force for Installations, Environment and Energy, John Henderson in Oscoda to discuss efforts to cleanup areas surrounding the former Wurstsmith Air Force Base contaminated by per- and polyfluoroalkyl (PFAS) chemicals. Henderson visited Oscoda following Peters’ invitation and in addition to participating in a public forum together, Peters met with Assistant Secretary Henderson and urged the Air Force to do more to mitigate PFAS contamination in the area. Peters remains committed to working with Oscoda — and other communities across the state that have been impacted by PFAS contamination—to ensure that public health and the environment are protected and that responsible parties are held responsible for cleanup efforts.

“For years families, veterans, and people in Iosco County have raised concerns about PFAS contamination in and around the former Wurtsmith Air Force Base,” said Senator Peters, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee and Ranking Member of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee. “It was important to have Assistant Secretary Henderson in Oscoda to hear directly from local residents who deserve answers. It’s critical the Air Force work with the state of Michigan on remediation efforts. I will continue to stand with the people of Iosco County, while pressing for the Air Force to cleanup the PFAS contamination.”

Peters previously met with Assistant Secretary Henderson, who made assurances that the Air Force would take steps to clean up the contaminated areas in Oscoda in accordance with federal law. The Air Force had cited sovereign immunity from state environmental quality regulations and water resources protection laws. Peters reminded Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson that Congress has waived sovereign immunity for environmental cleanup purposes, and stated that the Air Force’s refusal to comply with state established water quality limits suggested that Congress should act swiftly to direct the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to establish enforceable federal standards. 

Peters has led numerous initiatives in the Senate to address PFAS. Last month, Peters helped lead introduction of bipartisan legislation that would mandate the EPA declare PFAS as hazardous substances eligible for cleanup funds under the EPA’s Superfund law – enabling a requirement that polluters undertake or pay for remediation. In addition, Peters authored a provision that is now law to allow airports to transition away from using firefighting foams that contain PFAS. Previously, airports were required by law to use these foams based off an outdated specification. Furthermore, Peters led the first Senate hearing on PFAS to determine the federal government’s role on contamination and cleanup and convened a Senate field summit in Grand Rapids to hear from affected Michiganders and highlight how federal actions can support local efforts.

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