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Inside the Pentagon's Painfully Slow Effort to Clean Up Decades of PFAS Contamination

December 27, 2023

Hannah Norman and Patricia Kime

Water sampling in process at the former Wurtsmith Air Force Base, Michigan, Aug. 1, 2017. (Breanne Humphreys/U.S. Air Force)

By Hannah Norman and Patricia Kime

Oscoda, Michigan, has the distinction as the first community where “forever chemicals” were found seeping from a military installation into the surrounding community. Beginning in 2010, state officials and later residents who lived near the former Wurtsmith Air Force Base were horrified to learn that the chemicals, collectively called PFAS, had leached into their rivers, lakes, and drinking water.

Thirteen years later, the community is still waiting on whatever it will take to clean its water. As a result of dogged activism and pressure from government officials, the Air Force has finally taken initial steps simply to contain the chemicals.

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