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WASHINGTON, DC – U.S. Senator Gary Peters (MI) today received a response from Secretary of the Air Force Heather Wilson in response to a letter Peters sent last week regarding the agency’s cooperation with the State of Michigan on per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) cleanup efforts around the former Wurtsmith Air Force Base in Iosco County. In the Air Force’s letter, Secretary Wilson assured Peters that the Air Force will continue to work with the State of Michigan, and that Assistant Secretary Henderson is scheduling a trip to Michigan – which Peters requested in his letter last week.
“Families and veterans living around Wurtsmith are facing health risks from PFAS contamination – which they were exposed to for years – and they deserve answers,” said Senator Peters, Ranking Member of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee. “While I’m encouraged the Secretary has assured me the Air Force will remain proactive in remediation efforts and work with the State of Michigan, I continue to believe the Administration will need to be directed by Congress to set enforceable standards to guide clean up at contaminated sites. I’m working on drafting that legislation and look forward to introducing it soon with Senate colleagues.”
Peters’ letter last week was in response to news reports that the Air Force notified the state of Michigan that it would not make new efforts to cleanup PFAS in Iosco County and criticized the state Department of Environmental Quality.
Peters previously met with Secretary Henderson, who made assurances that the Air Force would take steps to clean up the contaminated areas. Instead, the Air Force elected to claim sovereign immunity from state environmental quality regulations and water resources protection laws. Peters reminded Secretary Wilson that Congress has waived sovereign immunity for environmental cleanup purposes, and stated that the Air Force’s refusal to comply with state established water quality limits suggested that Congress should act swiftly to direct the EPA to establish enforceable federal standards.