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DEQ issues second violation notice to Air Force for lagging PFAS clean-up at Wurtsmith

The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) today issued the U.S. Air Force with a violation notice for per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) contamination in the waters of Clark’s Marsh near Oscoda. The PFAS contamination was caused by the use of firefighting foam at the former Wurtsmith Air Force Base (WAFB) bordering the marsh. This is the second violation notice issued to the Air Force this year.

The DEQ has found the Air Force to be in violation of Part 31 under the water resources protection section of the Natural Resources and Environmental Protection Act. A review of data from monitoring well and surface water samples from Clark’s Marsh show perfluorooctanesulfonic acid (PFOS) levels far exceeding the 12 parts per trillion (ppt) surface water quality standard. Groundwater monitoring well data showed PFOS contamination levels as high as 42,000 ppt beneath the marsh and surface water contamination as a high as 1,410 ppt.

Under the violation notice, the DEQ is requiring the Air Force to increase pumping and treatment of contaminated groundwater at the WAFB from 250 gallons per minute (gpm) to 1,040 gpm. The DEQ is also requiring the Air Force to increase the size of the capture zone of the PFAS plume emanating from the WAFB.

“The slow response by the Air Force to the Wurtsmith contamination is having an increasingly negative impact on the people, wildlife, and environment in Oscoda,” said Carol Isaacs Director of the Michigan PFAS Action Response Team (MPART). “This order will require the Air Force to increase their pumping and treatment of contaminated water at the Clark’s Marsh location by more than four-fold. Although the State of Michigan has sought to work cooperatively with the Air Force, slow response to PFAS contamination is not acceptable and the State is prepared to use every regulatory and legal means necessary to force the Air Force to address this contamination.”

In January, the DEQ issued the Air Force with a violation notice for failing to meet a 2017 deadline to start-up a second granular activated carbon filtration system at the WAFB to address discharges of PFAS-containing groundwater to the Au Sable River and Van Etten Creek.
PFAS compounds are a group of emerging and potentially harmful contaminants used in thousands of applications globally including firefighting foam, food packaging, and many other consumer products. These compounds also are used by industries such as tanneries, metal platers, and clothing manufacturers. The discovery of PFAS contamination is a nationally growing trend across the United States.

MPART is overseeing the state’s $23 million effort to locate PFAS contamination, identify sources, and oversee remediation activities aimed at protecting the state’s water resources and mitigating risks to the public. For more information visit the MPART website: