Wurtsmith Air Force Base, Oscoda, Iosco County

Last Updated: August 30, 2021

Base Boundary - Former Wurtsmith Air Force Base

EGLE Site Lead:
Beth Place
PlaceB1@Michigan.gov
(517) 899-7524

All Wurtsmith Documents

Background

Wurtsmith Air Force Base, Oscoda, Michigan, served primarily as a combat crew and bomber training base throughout its 70-year history. Since its establishment in 1923, Wurtsmith played an important role in World War II, Vietnam, and the Persian Gulf War, hosting the 134th Army Air Force Base Fighter Unit and 379th Bombardment Wing, respectively.  Wurtsmith was selected for closure under the 1991 Base Realignment and Closure decision and was officially closed on June 30, 1993. Most of the acreage of the former base has been transferred for reuse. Under Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC), the United States Air Force (Air Force) is responsible for investigating and if necessary, addressing any environmental contamination caused by the Air Force while operating Wurtsmith and has invested in over $85 million in cleanup actions. The Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy (EGLE) became aware of PFAS concentrations in groundwater in March 2010 when EGLE staff performed sampling at a former fire training area on the former base. Air Force has completed the PFAS Preliminary Assessment, Site Inspection, and is currently planning the Remedial Investigation under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act.  Air Force is currently treating PFAS contaminated groundwater at the FT002, Central Treatment, and Mission Street pump and treat systems (PTS). 

Recent Accomplishments

  • On February 19, 2021, EGLE sent a letter to Air Force requesting routine PFAS sampling in the influent and effluent of the LF30/31 Engineered Wetland Treatment System. No response has been received.  However, Air Force sampled the effluent from the Engineered Wetland Treatment System and select monitoring wells at LF30/31 to determine a snapshot of PFAS concentrations.  This is summarized on the Air Force Administrative Record AR# 610393. 
  • On March 23, 2021, EGLE sent a letter to Air Force requesting an Interim Remedial Action east of FT002.  No response has been received.
  • EGLE provided comments on the Remedial Action Object reports
  • In August 2021, Air Force collected PFAS samples from existing monitoring wells for the PFAS Remedial Investigation (RI). On August 29, 2021, the data from this sampling event are summarized in the Air Force Administrative Record AR# 611071.
  • In August 2021, Air Force released EGLE comments on the Draft Final Clarks Marsh Proposed Plan and the revised Draft Final Proposed Plan for the Van Etten Lake at Ratliff Park Interim Remedial Actions. Air Force Administrative Record AR# 610837 and 610834, respectively.
  • Beginning August 16, 2021, Air Force began collecting soil samples as part of the PFAS RI. Air Force provided a Memorandum for the Record on soil sampling for the PFAS RI in Air Force Administrative Record AR# 611833. 

Next Steps

  • Discharge monitoring data from the CTS, Mission Street, and FT002 PTSs are available on MiWaters.
     
  • Monthly, Air Force hosts a Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) Cleanup Team (BCT) meeting with EGLE and MDHHS via teleconference. The Final BCT Minutes from recent meetings are made available on the All Wurtsmith Documents page.  The review schedule for reports is included in the BCT minutes.
     
  • Monthly, EGLE hosts a PFAS response coordination call. Representatives from EGLE, MDNR, MDHHS, DHD2, Oscoda Township, Au Sable Township, OWAA, the community RAB, USDA‑FS, and Air Force are invited to attend.  These calls will continue to occur monthly except during months when a MPART Town Hall meeting is scheduled to provide updates.
     
  • Air Force is currently planning a PFAS RI including a baseline risk assessment.  The RI will determine the nature and extent of contamination.  Below is the tentative schedule.
    • EGLE received the Draft Remedial Investigation work plan from Air Force on April 15, 2021, submitted comments to Air Force on May 30, 2021. Air Force and EGLE agreed to a stepwise approach to address comments where Air Force can still complete field work this season.  The Air Force response to the entirety of EGLE comments on the Draft work plan is pending.
    • Air Force plans to continue field work in a stepwise approach for the PFAS RI in 2021.
    • In late August 2021, Air Force and EGLE plan to meet for Systematic Project Planning meetings to discuss Vertical Aquifer Sampling (VAS) locations. VAS may start during September 2021.
    • EGLE received the Draft Final Risk Assessment Work Plan on June 3, 2021.  Air Force conveyed to EGLE that other document reviews were priority due to schedule, and EGLE provided comments on August 5, 2021.  An Air Force response to EGLE comments on the Draft Final Risk Assessment Work Plan is pending. 
    • Air Force plans to submit an accompanying Draft Final Biota Sampling Plan and/or Risk Assessment Addendum to EGLE. 
       
  • The Air Force is currently planning two interim remedial actions (IRAs) to expand the capture area of PFAS contaminated groundwater treated at the FT002 and the Central Treatment System (CTS) PTSs. One IRA will expand capture near the FT002 PTS. The other IRA will capture PFAS contaminated groundwater near Ratliff Park (Air Force Beach) that will be treated at the Central Treatment System (CTS). 
    • The EGLE-approved discharge requirements for the pump and treat systems are the treatment technology-based effluent limitations established to meet the Substantive Requirements of the Natural Resources and Environmental Protection Act 451, Part 31. These effluent limitations were established to ensure the proper operation and maintenance of the treatment systems and are also more restrictive than the Water Quality Standards for surface water discharges. Based on monthly effluent monitoring reports Air Force submits to the EGLE Water Resources Division, the concentrations of PFOA and PFOS are generally below the effluent limitations established in the Substantive Requirements Documents.  Additionally, although the discharges do not need to be protected as drinking water sources and the standards are not discharge requirements, PFOS, PFOA, PFBS, PFHxS, PFHxA, and PFNA in the effluent from both systems are generally below the recently established Michigan MCLs.  This was discussed at the April 2021 MPART Town Hall meeting. 
    • April 20, 2021 MPART Town Hall Meeting Presentation
    • April 20, 2021 MPART Town Hall Meeting Recording
    • Monthly discharge monitoring data from the CTS and FT002 groundwater treatment systems on MiWaters.
       
  • Below is the remaining tentative schedule for the implementation of the IRAs.
    • The public comment period for the VEL IRA at Ratliff Park is between August 4, 2021, and September 3, 2021.  A public meeting on the Proposed Plan is scheduled for August 30, 2021.  Prior to the public comment, EGLE submitted a formal letter documenting their support of the preferred alternative on June 22, 2021.  Air Force will select the remedy after public comment and prepare an Interim Record of Decision for each of the IRAs.
    • Air Force will prepare a Record of Decision, and Remedial Designs will be provided in the Remedial Action Work Plan for each of the IRAs.
    • EGLE received the Remedial Action Work Plan for the Clark's Marsh IRA on August 13, 2021, and plans to provide comments to Air Force in September 2021.
    • The tentative start date for each IRA system is between April-July 2022.

Residential Well Testing/Alternate Water Information

  • MDHHS is offering drinking water well retesting to Oscoda-area residents whose wells were previously tested for PFAS or who were offered drinking water filters, or both. There is no charge for the testing.  MDHHS has contacted these residents by letter and by phone to schedule water collection appointments. Seasonal residents who are away for the winter can schedule an appointment later.  The goal of the repeat testing is to determine if PFAS is in residential wells; if so, the amount of PFAS; and whether the amount is increasing, decreasing, or remaining the same over time.  MDHHS will be retesting these drinking water wells in coordination and District Health Department No. 2.  Residents who have questions about this PFAS testing effort or who would like to schedule an appointment can call the MDHHS Drinking Water Hotline at 844-934-1315.
  • More information on residential well sampling is included in the Oscoda Area MPART site page.

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