01.23.20

Peters Leads Michigan Delegation Members in Urging Air Force to Prioritize & Increase Funding for PFAS Cleanup Efforts at Former Wurtsmith and K.I. Sawyer Air Force Bases

WASHINGTON, DC – U.S. Senator Gary Peters (MI) today led members of the Michigan Congressional delegation in calling on the Air Force to allocate a portion of the additional $60 million the agency received for PFAS remediation efforts to the ongoing cleanup projects at 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.

“We have consistently heard from our constituents who are frustrated with the pace and scope of the Air Force’s cleanup effort,” the lawmakers wrote. “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.”

Currently, the Trump Administration has only allocated $1.553 million for remediation efforts at the former Wurtsmith Air Force Base and $4.5 million for the former K.I. Sawyer Air Force Base. The members also reiterated that the Air Force is required by law to produce a spend plan regarding the use of this funding no later than 60 days after the legislation was signed into law.

Serving on the Senate Armed Services Committee and as Ranking Member of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, Peters has led numerous efforts to increase resources for PFAS remediation efforts and confront this crisis across the state. During a visit to the former Wurtsmith Base last April with Assistant Air Force Secretary for Installations, Environment and Energy John Henderson, Peters held a joint public forum in which he urged the Air Force to do more to mitigate PFAS contamination in the area. Peters also helped secure bipartisan provisions that were signed into law in December to address PFAS contamination in Michigan and across the country, including that will phase out the Department of Defense’s use of firefighting foam with PFAS. He also helped enacted a provision he worked on with Stabenow that aims to increase coordination on PFAS remediation efforts between the Pentagon and states.

Full text of the letter can be found here and below. 

January 23, 2020

The Honorable Barbara Barrett

Secretary of the Air Force

1160 Air Force Pentagon

Washington, D.C. 20330

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.

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