October 28, 2021

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Air Force says it won’t follow Michigan law during Wurtsmith cleanup

Air Force says it won’t follow Michigan law during Wurtsmith cleanup

OSCODA, MI — The U.S. Air Force drew pointed criticism from activists and previous point out regulators during a assembly this week in which cleanup managers defended their intention to ignore new Michigan environmental guidelines by arguing they don’t apply to ideas for expanding a groundwater therapy technique in the vicinity of a highly polluted wetland.

Air Pressure attorneys explained Wednesday that new state policies severely limiting how considerably toxic PFAS “forever chemicals” a remedy system can discharge back into the environment don’t utilize to their ideas to grow an existing technique.

That position has angered locals who were presently upset about transparency issues with the Air Force’s proposal for increasing air pollution seize close to Clark’s Marsh, a contaminated wetland in the Huron-Manistee Countrywide Forest adjacent to the previous Wurtsmith Air Force Base in Oscoda.

Local officials and associates of Need to have Our Water (NOW), a regional activist team, say they have been blindsided by an Air Force’s announcement about ideas for the new cleanup only finding out the draft program had been unveiled right after getting contacted by journalists.

The Air Power uploaded its Clark’s Marsh plan to an obscure military administrative community history internet site on March 1 but did not disclose the plan’s existence until eventually March 16, when it issued a press release asserting a 30-working day public comment window that finishes April 17.

Activists in the Wednesday, March 24 meeting want the Air Power to increase general public involvement in cleanup planning and design the growth to comply with condition legislation, arguing it’ll have to be redone to fulfill that common in the foreseeable future anyhow.

“The approach by which this proposal has been formulated has been conducted in top secret and has not associated a one soul from Oscoda,” mentioned Tony Spaniola, a metro Detroit legal professional and PFAS activist who owns a dwelling on Van Etten Lake.

“I keep hearing that simply because this is an interim remedial action that by some means the Air Pressure can do anything a lot less than what should be finished in the conclude,” Spaniola continued. “That is a weak use and lousy administration of taxpayer bucks.”

“Do it appropriate and do it ideal now.”

Growth of groundwater remedy close to Clark’s Marsh is the most up-to-date enhancement in a long-running contamination saga in Oscoda, wherever PFAS chemical compounds are popular on and all-around the previous Wurtsmith foundation because of to their use in chemical-based mostly AFFF firefighting foam for decades.

The Air Power is expanding a granular activated carbon (GAC) treatment method procedure built in 2015 at the former fireplace teaching place No. 2, which is instantly north of the Au Sable River marsh where some of the most very PFAS contaminated fish, deer and other wildlife in Michigan are located.

The process expansion is 1 of a number of “interim” cleanup steps the Air Power agreed to undertake past year beneath weighty pressure from activists, point out regulators and members of Congress — which gave the armed forces $13.5 million in supplemental funding exclusively for new stopgap cleaning steps at the former base in late 2019.

The Air Power infuriated locals past spring by saying it would not complete any interim cleanup and would as an alternative expend that dollars on additional investigation. The military services reversed that stance very last June, saying it “heard the local community worries.”

Particulars on people strategies have been scarce in the meantime, with limited access offered to regulators at the Michigan Office of Environment, Great Lakes and Strength (EGLE), where by employees could only watch the drafts through a limited entry portal that prohibits copying.

Oscoda Township, Au Sable Township and the Oscoda-Wurtsmith Airport Authority boards have just about every handed resolutions this yr calling for increased general public engagement from the Air Pressure in cleanup arranging ahead of “key choice documents” are put in the administrative report.

The NOW activist group is preparing to maintain its have webinar about the cleanup plans on March 31 at 7 p.m.

Team associates want the Air Drive to make its Clark’s Marsh treatment method enlargement adhere to state rules restricting PFOS discharge to 16 areas-per-trillion (ppt) and PFOA discharge to 8-ppt stages formalized in December that mirror new state drinking h2o benchmarks enacted past year.

The Air Pressure plan phone calls for discharging taken care of groundwater at 20-ppt for PFOS and 40-ppt for PFOA. Air Force lawyers and venture administrators say these degrees are grandfathered into the process because it was put in less than 2016 demands from point out regulators.

“We’re setting up off an present procedure that has state demands now place on that process for what we have to do discharging from that method,” Sharon Vrisenga, an attorney with the Air Pressure environmental division, mentioned throughout Wednesday’s assembly. “If you are expanding an existing method, you continue to be with the restrictions that have now been put on that program.”

Vrisenga pointed to a provision in the In depth Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act, or CERCLA (also acknowledged as the federal Superfund law) that enables the military services to essentially disregard certain relevant state rules right up until later on levels in the cleanup.

“That’s what we’re carrying out here,” she reported. “This is a piece of the larger puzzle and we’re functioning just on this a person piece suitable now.”

The Air Drive prepare calls for escalating polluted groundwater seize from the fireplace schooling area by 40 % through both growing the current activated carbon process or switching to ion resin trade treatment, a additional costly possibility that job administrators never desire. An ion resin process would demand a new treatment facility and price tag about $11.8 million as opposed to about $9.9 million to broaden the current activated carbon remedy.

The Air Force did not say how a great deal a lot more it would cost to treat discharge h2o down to new condition needs, even though advisor Paula Bond acknowledged that “as you go decrease in concentration, it just raises your O&M (procedure and routine maintenance)” costs.

Air Pressure venture manager Catharine Varley, who took over from earlier internet site manager Dave Gibson, cast the worry about condition prerequisites as moot mainly because the technique will satisfy individuals expectations even if it is not built or expected to.

“We are still expecting non-detect we’re continue to expecting to be under the Michigan levels when we install the technique,” she mentioned.

Robert Delaney, a retired state regulator previously in demand of the web-site for EGLE, claimed he’s concerned that Air Drive plume maps and designs never precisely signify how significantly contamination is essentially coming into Clark’s Marsh from other points besides the former fire education area.

Delaney, who was included in the state’s initial discovery of PFAS at the site, reported the pollutants are also entering the marsh and other nearby swamps from previous Air Drive wastewater procedure lagoons now owned by Oscoda Township. Delaney explained contaminated sediment will also go on to bleed PFAS into the h2o and wildlife, and that some plumes are functioning under the marsh and discharging instantly to the Au Sable River by itself.

“I’m involved that the general public is not getting explained to or shown these points and it is truly impossible for them to evaluate how very good this remedy is,” Delaney mentioned.

Varley inspired Delaney to submit his issues as a community remark and advised that the Air Drive is not responsible for some of that contamination mainly because the township owns the wastewater plant. The Air Force has refused to get obligation for PFAS contamination across the wider Oscoda region, arguing its liability is minimal to the foundation perimeter.

That has annoyed community officials who say the contamination in other people places about the place, these kinds of as underneath the significant school, stems from AFFF that arrived from foundation firefighters.

“Hopefully, you’re speaking about Wurtsmith contamination, not the township’s wastewater procedure plant or anything else, due to the fact our modeling is all primarily based on Wurtsmith and our web sites on foundation,” Varley claimed.

Delaney replied that the township wastewater plant was transferred by the Air Power, which formerly directed polluted drainage into that system for decades. “The remedy plant did not contact that contamination and deposited it directly into the infiltration beds,” he claimed. “There’s an huge plume created from individuals infiltration beds.”

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