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Senator Peters Statement on New Air Force Efforts to Prevent Additional PFAS Spread Around Wurtsmith Air Force Base

DETROIT, MI – U.S. Senator Gary Peters (MI) released the following statement on new efforts announced by the U.S. Air Force to stem the flow of PFAS into surface waters around the former Wurtsmith Air Force Base by installing groundwater filtration systems at highly contaminated areas in Clarks Marsh and the Au Sable River.

“This is an important step to help prevent the continued contamination of water in and around Oscoda,” said Senator Peters. “I’m particularly glad the Air Force decided to implement these remedies that were developed by Oscoda community experts, which will help address some of the most highly contaminated areas in the entire Great Lakes region. I’ve continuously pressed the Air Force to work quickly and to do more to stop the spread of PFAS at Wurtsmith, and I’ll continue to fight alongside the Oscoda community to make that happen.”

“This announcement is a major victory for the Oscoda community and the Au Sable River watershed,” said Tony Spaniola of Need Our Water in Oscoda. “Working closely with our community, other members of Congress and the Biden administration, Senator Peters has helped to lead a bipartisan effort to bring about this significant and long overdue cleanup. We are deeply grateful for his leadership and look forward to continuing to work with him on the other cleanup issues that we face at Wurtsmith.”

Peters, who is a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee and a former Lt. Commander in the U.S. Navy Reserve, has worked with the Oscoda community for years on PFAS remediation efforts at Wurtsmith. Last year, Peters applauded steps taken by the Air Force to prevent further spread of PFAS-contaminated water into local water systems by installing groundwater treatment facilities at two additional Wurtsmith sites. During a hearing of the Senate Armed Services Committee last May, Peters pressed Air Force Secretary Frank Kendall to commit to taking immediate remedial actions without any further delays. In 2022, Peters convened a field hearing in East Lansing with officials from the Department of Defense (DoD), Health and Human Services (HHS), and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to examine federal efforts and coordination with state and local governments to clean up and prevent contamination from PFAS, and to examine the impact exposure to these toxic chemicals has had on servicemembers, first responders, families, and other Michiganders. In 2019, Peters hosted the Assistant Secretary of the Air Force at Wurtsmith to urge them to do more to mitigate PFAS contamination. Peters helped secure $13.5 million for PFAS remediation efforts there, and he has also called on the Air Force to take more significant steps to address PFAS contamination near Wurtsmith and to meet the State of Michigan’s standards to address PFAS contamination. He has also taken steps to hold the DoD accountable for their failure to meet key PFAS reporting deadlines.

Peters has also led and championed many efforts to address toxic PFAS chemicals. In September 2018, Peters helped convene the first-ever hearing on PFAS contamination in the Senate, which assessed the federal government’s response to PFAS contamination and remediation efforts. He then convened a field summit in Grand Rapids in November 2018 to shine a light on how local, state and federal governments are coordinating responses to address PFAS contamination. Peters also convened a hearing in 2021 as Chairman of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee to examine how servicemembers, their families, and communities across the country have been harmed by exposure to toxic PFAS substances connected to military sites. He also previously supported and led provisions in the national defense bill to prohibit DoD from purchasing or using firefighting foams containing PFAS chemicals for military training exercises, and enhanced state cooperation DoD to clean-up PFAS contamination stemming from military-related activities.

Peters introduced and advanced bipartisan legislation to reduce the spread of PFAS chemicals at commercial airports. The Preventing PFAS Runoff at Airports Act, which was signed into law in 2022, is working to deploy more existing Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) funding for commercial airports to purchase devices to test their firefighting equipment without discharging toxic PFAS chemicals. In 2022, Peters’ bill to help protect firefighters and emergency responders from PFAS exposure in the line of duty was also signed into law.