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Sawyer makes ‘Filthy Fifty’ list

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Marquette County’s K.I. Sawyer, a former U.S. Air Force base, has been identified in the Filthy Fifty Act as a priority for clean up of per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, or PFAS, as it is one of the state’s two most PFAS-contaiminated bases.

This stems from U.S. Sens. Debbie Stabenow, D-Lansing, and Gary Peters, D-Bloomfield Hills, introducing two bills to address PFAs at military bases across the country.

The two bills, which are the Clean Water for Military Families Act and the Filthy Fifty Act, direct the Department of Defense to identify and clean up per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances at U.S. military installations with some of the highest levels of PFAS contamination in the country, according to a news release from Stabenow’s office.

The Filthy Fifty Act will set testing and cleanup deadlines for PFAS remediation at the most contaminated Department of Defense sites in the country and establishes a list of priority installations with 50 bases in the U.S. that have among the highest detections of PFAS.

“PFAS contamination is a threat to public health, and Michigan families have waited long enough for help. These bills will bring faster relief by investing in clean-up, setting deadlines and requiring the Department of Defense to remediate contamination,” Stabenow said in the release.

Michigan’s two most contaminated bases, Wurtsmith Air Force Base and K.I. Sawyer, are included in the list of priority installations, officials said in the release.

“We have a solemn obligation to care for our service members, their families and their surrounding communities — and that means ensuring that the Department of Defense accelerates testing and cleanup efforts at military installations that have been contaminated by toxic PFAS chemicals,” Peters said in the release. “These bills would provide much-needed deadlines and important resources for remediating PFAS contamination at military facilities in our state. We owe it to our Michigan veterans and our communities to get this done.”

The Clean Water for Military Families Act would require the Department of Defense to conduct investigations and remediate PFAS contamination at and surrounding DOD installations in the U.S. and state-owned National Guard facilities.

This would include installations and facilities such as Selfridge Air National Guard Base, Camp Grayling and Battle Creek Air National Guard Base. Specifically, the bill authorizes a one-time, $10 billion investment for the investigations and clean-up to ensure military families have access to clean, pollutant-free drinking water, officials said.

“Like New Mexico, Michigan has significant challenges when it comes to working with the Defense Department to address PFAS contamination on military bases.

“PFAS has been detected on at least 10 bases in Michigan. At one base, we have had readings as high as 32,200 parts per trillion,” Stabenow said during a Wednesday U.S. Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works hearing.

“And at some of our bases — such as Wurtsmith in Oscoda and Camp Grayling in Grayling — we have PFAS migrating off base and into surrounding water bodies. These lakes and streams are sometimes covered by thick foam as a result of the PFAS migrating from the bases. We have had test results showing contamination at times pouring out of Selfridge Air National Guard Base into the Clinton River and Lake St. Clair, which is the source of drinking water for nearby municipalities.”

Contamination from PFAS chemicals, which have been used in firefighting foam and other manufacturing products, is “a serious issue affecting drinking water for millions of Americans,” officials said in the release.

The military’s “heavy use of a firefighting foam has resulted in widespread PFAS contamination around military sites,” the release states. “A recent study showed that up to 110 million Americans might be drinking PFAS-contaminated water and that Michigan has the most PFAS-contaminated sites in the country. Exposure to PFAS chemicals has been linked to cancer and other diseases.”

Stabenow and Peters have “led the efforts to address PFAS contamination and keep Michigan families safe,” according to the release.

In past defense budget bills, the senators passed legislation to clean up contaminated sites and invest millions to study the health impacts of PFAS exposure.

The bill also requires the Department of Defense to alert Michigan farmers if their irrigation water is contaminated.

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