Following Senator’s Invitation, Assistant Secretary John Henderson and Peters to Meet with Michiganders Impacted by PFAS Exposure at Former Wurtsmith Air Force Base
OSCODA, MI – U.S. Senator Gary Peters (MI) today announced that following his invitation, Assistant Secretary of the Air Force for Installations, Environment and Energy, John Henderson, will visit the Oscoda area with him next Wednesday, April 24th. The visit will include a public event and give residents impacted by exposure to per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) an opportunity to hear about recent updates and what more must be done to clean up contaminated areas surrounding the former Wurtsmith Air Force Base. Additional details will be announced in the coming days.
Following news reports earlier this year, Peters called on the Air Force to work with the State of Michigan to remediate PFAS contamination surrounding the former Wurtsmith Air Force Base in Iosco County. He also requested that the Air Force meet with members of the community and secured a commitment that the Assistant Secretary would travel to the Oscoda area.
“For years, veterans and their families have been speaking out about contamination around Wurtsmith Air Force Base, and they deserve action,” said Senator Peters, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee and Ranking Member of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee. “I appreciate Assistant Secretary Henderson following through on my request to visit the area, so Michiganders can get some answers. We know PFAS exposure can have serious health consequences, and I’ll continue working on ways to take federal action on PFAS contamination in Michigan and across the country.”
The Air Force has 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 previously met with Assistant Secretary Henderson, who made assurances that the Air Force would take steps to clean up the contaminated areas in accordance with federal law.
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 clean-up and convened a Senate field summit in Grand Rapids to hear from affected Michiganders and highlight how federal actions can support local efforts.