03.05.19

Peters Receives Additional Information from Air Force on PFAS Cleanup Surrounding Former Wurtsmith Air Force Base

Air Force Confirms Assistant Secretary Henderson to Visit Oscoda

WASHINGTON, DC – U.S. Senator Gary Peters (MI) received a new letter from Secretary of the Air Force Heather Wilson on the agency’s efforts to address per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) cleanup efforts at the former Wurtsmith Air Force Base in Iosco County. In the letter, the Secretary reiterated the Air Force’s commitment to working with the State of Michigan in remediation, and that – in response to Peters’ request for a visit – Assistant Secretary Henderson will be visiting Oscoda on his trip to Michigan. Additional information about that visit will be announced in the coming weeks.

“The Air Force must continue working with the State of Michigan on remediation efforts around Wurtsmith, and I will continue to hold them accountable,” said Senator Peters, Ranking Member of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee. “I look forward to Assistant Secretary Henderson’s visit to Oscoda to meet with families impacted by PFAS exposure. It’s important that the Air Force hears directly from residents about what more must be done.”

This letter provides additional context to the Secretary’s initial response to Peters’ letter regarding news reports that the Air Force notified the State of Michigan that it would not make new efforts to cleanup PFAS in Iosco County and criticized the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality.

Peters previously met with Secretary Henderson, who made assurances that the Air Force would take steps to clean up the contaminated areas. Instead, the Air Force elected to claim sovereign immunity from state environmental quality regulations and water resources protection laws. Peters reminded Secretary 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.

You can read Secretary Wilson’s letter to Senator Peters by clicking here.

Peters has led a number of efforts in the Senate to address PFAS. Last year, Peters authored a provision that is now law to enable 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. He also secured a provision that was enacted to encourage the Department of Defense to develop firefighting foams free of PFAS. In addition, Peters helped convene the first Senate hearing on PFAS to assess the federal 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. Most recently, Peters joined his colleagues on a bipartisan basis to introduce legislation to mandate the EPA declare PFAS as hazardous substances eligible for cleanup funds under the EPA Superfund law.

###