Read the full article by Garret Ellison
“OSCODA, MI — Did veterans and the families who lived and worked at Wurtsmith Air Force Base in Oscoda drink water polluted with per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, or PFAS, when the base was active and sourcing water from on-site wells?
The state of Michigan says yes.
The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality released a report Thursday, Aug. 30, concluding that Wurtsmith wells were ‘likely impacted’ by PFAS contamination between 1978 and 1997, when municipal water from Lake Huron was brought to the base.
The study doesn’t estimate past concentrations or exposure dosage — and was released with a bad mark from an expert peer reviewer — but DEQ is standing behind the consultant analysis, calling the conclusions ‘reasonable and within the scope of study.’
‘We wanted to try and answer the question of whether the veterans and people who worked on the base in the past had potentially drank PFAS contaminated water,’ DEQ site manager Robert Delaney said during the base Restoration Advisory Board meeting Thursday.
The DEQ’s consultant DLZ Engineering studied the aquifer ‘capture zones’ from which past base supply wells would have drawn water and concluded those ‘extend across’ areas in which PFAS contamination has been detected on the base.
The analysis also studied water capture from groundwater pump-and-treat, or purge wells, which were installed starting in 1978 to remove groundwater contaminated by volatile organic compounds like benzene and trichloroethene.
‘The answer is yes,’ said Delaney. ‘Every well that pumped in the past after the introduction of PFAS at the site could have been taking in PFAS.’
Delaney said the analysis is meant to answer that single question, and ‘if you lived on the base, we cannot tell you what the concentrations were you drank or how much you drank.’ …
The new capture zone report builds upon data gathered by the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality in 2016, which found PFAS in water samples collected from old fire hydrants that were never flushed after the switch to municipal water in 1997.
A veterans group has been pushing for the capture zone report, which they hope builds the case for an epidemiological health study of former base personnel that could provide a basis for expansion of health benefits by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.
James M. Bussey, who leads the Veterans & Civilians Clean Water Alliance group of Wurtsmith veterans, said he hopes the report prods the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) to study PFAS exposure among base veterans and local civilians…
The ATSDR said Friday that it is reviewing the report.
Bussey was stationed at Wurtsmith between 1989 and 1992 and said he was exposed to the AFFF firefighting foam that caused the PFAS contamination. His blood was tested by the War Related Illness & Injury Study Center this year and showed “abnormally high” levels of PFHxS, a PFAS compound closely associated with AFFF plumes.
‘People need to be tested,’ Bussey said. The veterans group conducted informal symptom polling among members and found numerous instances of chronic diseases.
‘There were a lot of cancers and autoimmune disorders,’ Bussey said. ‘Lots of people who had the same issues I do with neuropathy, liver, heart, lung and skin issues.’ …
The DEQ released the report with a critical peer review by David Hyndman, a hydrogeology professor at Michigan State University who has been advising the state on PFAS investigation and response since April. Hyndman criticized the groundwater model used in the report and, in a June 19 memo, called the results ‘not scientifically valid.’
The DEQ’s issued the report with Aug. 22 responses from its consultant, DLZ, and Leeming wrote that the report was revised based on Hyndman’s feedback.
‘The direction to the consultant was limited to ascertain if the water supply system on the base was drawing PFAS-contaminated groundwater, and not to provide a comprehensive analysis of the volume or concentration of contamination in the aquifer or drinking water supplied by the wells,’ she wrote.”