Wurtsmith Air Force Base, Oscoda, Iosco County - New

PFAS Map Oscoda AreaUpdated: February 28, 2019


This is the primary site in Oscoda. The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ) became aware of PFAS contamination in March 2010 when sampling was performed by MDEQ staff at a former fire training area on the base. There is a current ‘Do Not Eat’ advisory for deer taken within five miles of Clark’s Marsh. The advisory is due to high levels of PFAS chemicals found in deer taken within five miles of the marsh. For additional information about this advisory and testing, visit the PFAS in Deer webpage.

Recent Accomplishments

  • Sampling of 4 seeps at the former Base beach demonstrated PFOS contamination from groundwater plumes entering Van Etten Lake at levels above the Part 201 GSI criteria.
  • A Base Closure Team Meeting was held with the Air Force on February 12, 2019.

Next Steps

  • MDEQ will continue working on action items from the first dispute resolution meeting that was held on April 19, 2018.

Residential Well Testing/Alternate Water Information

  • For information on residential well testing and alternate water information, please visit the Oscoda Area page.
  • For additional information on residential well testing and results, visit the Frequently Asked Questions.
  • The MDEQ has sampled all municipal water supplies for PFAS. The community of Oscoda purchases water from the Huron Shores Regional Utility Authority (HSRUA). View the results for HSRUA.

Upcoming Community Engagement

  • Restoration Advisory Board (RAB) training will be held by the Air Force in Oscoda on April 23, 2019.A regular RAB meeting will be held April 24.
Sampling: PFOS and PFOA Only

Type of Sample

Date Sampled

# of Samples

# of Results Received

# of Non-detects

# Between Non-detect and standard*

# > Standard


March 2010 -
Apr 2, 2018
736 736 115 373 268
Surface Water May 2010 -
Sep 6, 2018
181 181 22 62 97
Drinking Water (Residential, schools) Sep 2015 -
May 22, 2018
390 390 116 272 2


  1,307 1,307 253 707 367

*Groundwater results are compared to the MDEQ Part 201 Criteria of 70 ppt.
*Surface water and effluent results are compared to Rule 57 surface water quality values of 12 ppt for PFOS and 12,000 ppt for PFOA. 
*Residential well results are compared to the USEPA Lifetime Health Advisory Level of 70 ppt. 

Sampling notes

  • Sample totals in the above table reflect samples taken from the former Wurtsmith Air Force Base and samples from the 6 Oscoda Area sites.
  • Other PFAS analytes were detected in samples. There are no federal or state standards for these analytes.
  • Fifteen foam samples have been taken off-base. A “Do Not Eat The Foam” advisory was issued by the local health department. Results range from 2,237 - 110,830 ppt PFOA+PFOS; and 2,487 - 164,253 ppt total tested PFAS. Cedar Lake (off base) foam results at 165 ppt PFOA and PFOS.
  • Groundwater sampling is both on and off-base. Surface water sampling is off-base.

Former Wurtsmith Air Force Base Historical Timeline

Wurtsmith Air Force Base (WAFB) is the primary site in Oscoda. The MDEQ became aware of per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) contamination in March 2010 when sampling was performed at a former fire training area on the base.

Plumes of at least eight square miles have been identified, along with six sites near the base. There are three sites off-base that are directly attributed to the former base (Loud Drive, Whispering Pines, and Van Etten Lake). Those three sites and three additional sites in the Oscoda area that are the result of efforts to put out local fires, are located under the Oscoda Area page.

Actions to date include:

  • In April 2015, the United States Air Force (USAF) installed a granular activated carbon (GAC) treatment system to treat PFAS-contaminated groundwater collected from the plume from Fire Training Area #2 (FT-02).The Water Resources Division (WRD) issued a Substantive Requirements Document (SRD) on April 15, 2016, which is a permit-like document that specified the effluent limitations and monitoring requirements for the FT-02 GAC treatment system.
  • A “Do Not Eat the Fish” advisory issued by the Department of Human Health Services in 2012 for the marshes and ponds south of the base, Van Etten Creek, and the Au Sable River.
  • The USAF and MDEQ collectively have conducted over 350 drinking water samples (from residential wells and schools) and installed over 600 monitoring wells.
  • A “Do Not Drink the Groundwater” advisory issued in 2016 for part of this area, and alternate water units (in the form of filters or in-home water coolers) provided by the local health department to 206 homes. This number is current as of October 16, 2018.
  • The MDEQ and the USAF continue to monitor residential wells and provide alternate water if detections are above the USEPA Lifetime Health Advisory (LHA) of 70 ppt PFOA+PFOS.
  • The USAF has provided connection to municipal water supply at one residence where PFOA and PFOS were detected above the LHA.
  • The WRD issued an SRD on October 7, 2016, which set a compliance date of December 31, 2017, for the installation of multi-stage GAC treatment for the Arrow Street and Benzene Plant groundwater pumping locations. The WRD issued a Notice of Violation to the USAF on January 16, 2018, which addressed the unlawful discharge of untreated PFAS from the Arrow Street and Benzene Plant groundwater pumping locations in violation of the terms and conditions of the SRD.
  • In response to the January 16, 2018, Notice of Violation, the USAF constructed the Central Treatment Plant to treat PFAS contaminated groundwater from the Arrow Street and Benzene Plant groundwater pump systems. The Central Treatment Plant is a Granular Activated Carbon (GAC) treatment system, with a potential upgrade to a resin treatment system, installed and operational as of August 31, 2018. It currently treats the groundwater from the Arrow Street and Benzene pump stations.Wastewater from a third system-the Mission Street pump station-is scheduled to be connected in 2019.
  • The MDEQ entered into the Dispute Resolution Process of the Defense and State Memorandum of Agreement grant program on December 14, 2017, with the USAF over the USAF's noncompliance with Part 201. Seven items of disagreement were raised. The MDEQ and the USAF continue to work on resolving these issues.
  • On October 19, 2018, the MDEQ issued a Notice of Violation to the USAF for exceeding the Rule 57 water quality standard of 12 ppt PFOS at the groundwater surface water interface (GSI) in the area of Clark’s Marsh. Concentrations of PFOS in surface waters in the Clark’s Marsh area also exceeded Rule 57 water quality standards. This Notice of Violation requires the USAF to submit a compliance plan within 30 days of the date of the notice.
  • On October 19, 2018, the Michigan departments of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) and Natural Resources (MDNR) issued a ‘Do Not Eat’ advisory for deer taken within approximately five miles of Clark’s Marsh in Oscoda Township. The advisory is due to high levels of PFOS found in a single deer taken about two miles from Clark’s Marsh, which borders the former WAFB. ‘Do Not Eat’ Deer Advisory FAQs.

Community Engagement to date:

  • Eight public meetings have been held to date that encompass both the former WAFB site and the six Oscoda Area sites.
  • On December 4, 2018, a Town Hall meeting was held.
  • The USAF started a Restoration Advisory Board (RAB) for public outreach in 2017. The most recent RAB meeting was on Wednesday, December 5, 2018, at the Robert J. Parks Public Library, 6010 N. Skeel Avenue, Oscoda.

Report Foam on Van Etten Lake

  • If you observe foam on Lake Van Ettan, please report it to the State of Michigan’s Pollution Emergency Alerting System (PEAS) hotline at 800-292-4706 or fill out and send this email form. The following information is needed when you call or email:

    • Name, Address, City, State, and Zip
    • Telephone Number
    • Email
    • Where is the foam located? (an address or location)
    • How much foam is present, length by width by thickness? (we understand this is an estimate/best guess)
    • What time did you first observe the foam, and is it still present?
    • If it is a floating mass of foam, which direction is it moving?
    • Wind speed, wind direction, and air temperature? If not, this information is not essential.
    • Can you take a picture of the foam and attach it to this email?