Bill would expedite PFAS cleanup at former Wurtsmith, Sawyer bases

Melissa Nann Burke
The Detroit News
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Washington — A new bill in the U.S. Senate would require the Pentagon to expedite testing for and the cleanup of drinking-water contaminants at U.S. military installations with some of the highest levels of perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS). 

Included on the "Filthy Fifty" list of priority bases are the former Wurtsmith Air Force Base in Oscoda and the former K.I. Sawyer Air Force in Marquette County, according to the bill's text.

In this June 7, 2018 photo, PFAS foam gathers at the the Van Etten Creek dam in Oscoda Township, Mich., near Wurtsmith Air Force Base.

PFAS compounds have been used in firefighting foam that was deployed for emergency response and training at military and civilian airfields for decades, leading to widespread contamination at many current and former installations.

The bill, led by Democratic Sens. Alex Padilla of California and Kirsten Gillibrand of New York, aims to hurry up the PFAS cleanup by setting deadlines for the work, including two years for PFAS testing and completion of all physical construction for remediation within 10 years of the law's enactment.

Cleanup would have to be to the most stringent standard applicable, whether that's a applicable state or federal standard, as well as the federal health advisory under the federal Safe Drinking Water Act.

Michigan Sens. Debbie Stabenow, D-Lansing, and Gary Peters, D-Bloomfield Township, are co-sponsors of the measure. 

A related measure, also led by Padilla and Gillibrand and co-sponsored by the Michigan senators, would put $10 billion toward requiring the Department of Defense to investigate and clean up PFAS contamination at and surrounding military installations in the U.S. and state-owned National Guard facilities, according to a bill summary.

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