OSCODA – “I see you guys didn’t put that on the agenda, and I’m surprised,” said Oscoda resident Paul Rekowski, during the public comment period of the township board of trustees meeting on July 22.
He was referencing the per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) contamination that has been detected at the township dump site on Kings Corner Road.
“When is it going to be on the agenda, where you’re going to tell the township people about the PFAS plume you’ve got coming from the dump, that’s going into Van Etten Lake and probably responsible for the PFAS that’s in all the wells on the east side of Van Etten Lake?” Rekowski asked.
“Because that’s where the dump’s at – it’s on the east side of the lake,” he continued, saying the contamination is migrating toward the lake and to “all those areas” that the township claimed was the responsibility of the U.S. Air Force (USAF).
Rekowski said he doesn’t know for a fact that the dump site is to blame for the PFAS in that area, because an investigation is not yet complete.
“When are you going to announce to the public your plan for doing an investigation, and what’s the cost going to be for that investigation and cleanup?” he asked.
“I haven’t heard anything; I haven’t read anything about that. Where is that plan?” he went on, questioning when the township is going to clean up the PFAS and stop it from getting into the lake.
“So I would expect you guys to come up with a plan pretty soon, announce it to the public what your plan is to investigate and then clean that up,” Rekowski said.
“Because, from what I remember, there was all kinds of jumping up and down that the federal government’s not doing their work fast enough. Well, when is the township going to do their work fast enough?” he asked.
Rekowski noted that a letter was sent to the township in June from the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes & Energy (EGLE) – formerly the Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) – and he said that, as far as he knew, the township hasn’t yet divulged it to the public.
“Have you announced it to the public that the DEQ is asking you for a cleanup plan and investigation and schedule?” he asked.
“I just hope you guys take responsibility for what you’re causing, and you get to cleaning that thing up as soon as you can, to stop putting that into Van Etten Lake,” Rekowski continued. “Because I live on that lake, and I want you to stop polluting it.”
According to information from EGLE, Oscoda Township was concerned that PFAS-containing wastes (especially aqueous film forming foam) were disposed of in the dump, based on a letter in the file from 1968 stating that waste from the Wurtsmith Air Force Base was being disposed of at the site.
“We did get results back that it does have level of PFAS in it, along with heavy metals,” said Township Supervisor Aaron Weed, during the subcommittee reports and project updates portion of the meeting.
“That’s been no secret. There’s actually been news articles published regarding this,” he said.
“All of the residential wells in the area suspected to be downstream of that have results that have all come back as non-detect,” he went on, adding that EGLE representatives recently advised that the pond near the dump had one detection of a PFAS compound at low levels.
“So that will be investigated further. But we are awaiting a meeting with EGLE to develop a forward plan,” Weed said.
“The difference between what was stated just a little bit ago at public comment, is that we don’t have 20 years of history dealing with the contamination. We’ve only got a few months,” he continued. “And we are not sure yet if any of the PFAS contamination from that dump is due to Air Force activity.”
It was during the second public comment forum of the meeting when resident Robert Tasior said it took nine years for the USAF to investigate, and that EGLE is still looking at the landfill site.
“I find it amusing that he would ask the township for a time line for clean up when the Air Force hasn’t had a plan after nine years,” Tasior said of the pervious remarks. “And I think Mr. Rekowski was working for the Air Force as a consultant in charge of cleaning up the very issues of PFAS contamination.”
Tasior added that, for all anyone knows, the contamination in this area could be the result of the USAF.
“I wish Mr. Rekowski would have put that much energy into cleaning up the PFAS that the Air Force willing admitted they put down in the ground,” he went on.
“For him to criticize the township is not warranted, in my view,” Tasior said.
As previously reported, a town hall meeting regarding PFAS was held in Oscoda on July 16, and one of the speakers was Ann Person, EGLE’s Remediation and Redevelopment Division supervisor for the Bay City district.
She advised that, in 2018, EGLE did an investigation around the perimeter of the dump and took 16 groundwater samples – 11 of which had hits of PFAS, and three of which exceeded the 70 parts per trillion criteria.
Based on this, Person said residential wells in the area were identified and nine were sampled, all of which came back with no PFAS detections. “In addition, we also collected a surface water sample from the little pond/lake right there and got results back this week, and those were non-detect.”
One exception, she said, is that there was a hit of the PFAS compound PFBA at very low concentrations, so this will be looked into too see where it came from.
She said a letter was sent to Oscoda Township in June, asking that they do the investigation to determine the extent of contamination associated with the dump.
“Because we’re not sure what was put in the dump, we can’t say that it came from the Air Force base. There’s a lot of dumps and landfills throughout the state that we’re looking at,” she said at the time, adding that other types of waste can have PFAS compounds in them. “So we will be working with the township to move that investigation forward.”