Former Wurtsmith Air Force Base, Iosco County

  • As of the week of September 10, 2018:

    352 private wells were tested for PFOA/PFOS
    All results are in
    There were two homes over 70 parts per trillion (PPT)
    The range of concentrations were Non-Detect to 3396

    Wurtsmith Air Force Base (WAFB) is the primary site in Oscoda. The DEQ 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:
    • Installation of a pump-and-treat system by the Air Force at WAFB to treat a portion of the plume from Fire Training Area #2 (FT02).
    • A “Do Not Eat the Fish” advisory issued by the Department of Human Health Services (DHHS) in 2012 for the marshes and ponds south of the base, Van Etten Creek, and the Au Sable River.
    • Collection of over 350 drinking water samples (from residential wells and schools) and installation and sampling of over 600 monitoring wells1.
    • 1This number reflects monitoring wells installed by both the USAF and the MDEQ combined.
    • 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 homes2.
    • 2This number is current as of October 16, 2018.
    • The DEQ and United States Air Force (USAF) continue to monitor residential wells and provide alternate water if detections are above the Part 201 criteria for ground water used for drinking water (70 ppt PFOA/PFOS)
    • The USAF has provided connection to municipal water supply at one residence, and provides alternate water for a second residence where PFOA and PFOS were detected above the Part 201 criteria.
    • The Water Resource Division issued a Notice of Violation to the USAF on January 16, 2018.  The Notice of Violation addressed the unlawful discharge of untreated PFAS from the Arrow Street and Benzene Plant groundwater treatment systems to Van Etten Creek in violation of the terms and conditions of the Substantive Requirements Document No. MIU990027.
    • 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 ground water 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 DEQ 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 DEQ and USAF continue to work on resolving these issues.
    • On October 19, 2018, the DEQ 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.
  • Community Engagement to date:
    • Seven public meetings have been held to date that encompass both the former WAFB site and the six Oscoda Area sites.
    • The USAF started a Restoration Advisory Board (RAB) for public outreach in 2017.The most recent RAB meeting was on Thursday, August 30, 2018, at the Robert J. Parks Public Library, 6010 N. Skeel Avenue, Oscoda.

    Data on residential well testing is available on the Oscoda Area page. The data represents residential well samples taken throughout the six Oscoda Area sites and those around the former WAFB.

    For assistance, please email the Environmental Assistance Center or call 800-662-9278.

    If you live in the designated area for free water testing, please fill out and send this email form.

PFAS Contaminated Lake Foam

  • MDEQ: Former Wurtsmith AFB PFAS Investigation PhotosPFAS contaminated foam was first discovered on the shore of Van Etten Lake in July 2017 when a group of high school students participating in the Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) summer program hosted by Michigan State University and DOW of Midland, encountered the foam as they prepared to sample Van Etten Lake surface water for PFAS contamination.  Noting the amount of foam and its unusual characteristics (stiffer and whiter than protein foams that naturally occur on lakes), they decided, with permission from their sponsors, to sample the foam. The foams are contaminated with several PFAS compounds but most notably with PFOS. The State of Michigan Department of Health and Human Services in conjunction with Local Health Department #2, issued a health advisory due to the relatively high levels of PFAS found in the foams. People are advised not to ingest the foams.

    The foams appear year round as long as there is open water on the lake. They can appear on either side of the lake depending upon wind direction and they can extend well beyond the northern boundary of the former Wurtsmith Air Force Base. They are believed to be the result of PFAS contamination concentrating at the water/air interface in the lake, as the concentrations in the foams are much higher than found in surface water.

    The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality continues to investigate, test and study the foam to better understand its characteristics and determine best ways to remediate.

Report Foam on Lake Van Etten

  • 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?