Groundwater and PFAS


Michigan senator urges Air Force cooperation on PFAS clean-up efforts surrounding former Wurtsmith Air Force Base

Feb 4, 2019, 13:30 PM by Pat Levak
The Air Force claims sovereign immunity from state environmental quality regulations and water resources protection laws.

Michigan Senator Gary Peters urged Secretary of the Air Force Heather Wilson on February 1 to cooperate with the state of Michigan on per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) decontamination efforts in the area surrounding the former Wurtsmith Air Force Base in Iosco County, Michigan.

In a letter to Wilson, Peters also invited Assistant Secretary John Henderson to meet with community members impacted by the contamination from the former base. Peters’ effort follows recent news reports the Air Force notified the state of Michigan it would not make new efforts to clean up PFAS in Iosco County and criticized the state Department of Environmental Quality.

Surface water in Clark’s Marsh near the former Wurtsmith Air Force Base has been found to contain PFAS levels of 42,000 parts per trillion, greatly exceeding the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s recommended standard. In January, Peters met with Henderson, who made assurances the Air Force would take steps to clean up the contaminated areas.

Instead, the Air Force is claiming sovereign immunity from state environmental quality regulations and water resources protection laws. Peters reminded Wilson that Congress has waived sovereign immunity for environmental cleanup purposes and stated the Air Force’s refusal to comply with state-established water quality limits suggests Congress should act swiftly to direct the EPA to establish enforceable federal standards.

Peters, a ranking member of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, secured a provision in bipartisan legislation signed into law in 2018 to give commercial airports the ability to discontinue the use of firefighting foams containing PFAS since previous regulations require the use of such foams.

PFAS are also known to have contaminated groundwater, including around military bases and facilities around the country.

In related news, a Michigan resident whose town is affected by PFAS contamination of groundwater, rivers, and lakes was invited to attend the State of the Union on February 5.

Cathy Wusterbarth of Oscoda attended the speech as the guest of Michigan Representative Dan Kildee who represents the area in Congress. Wusterbarth helped to organize Need Our Water, a local citizens group that wants to rid the area’s waters of PFAS chemicals flowing from the former Wurtsmith Air Force Base.

PFAS has been on NGWA’s radar for several years and will remain a priority issue for the foreseeable future. The Association has created a Groundwater and PFAS resource center for NGWA members. The center includes PFAS FAQs, top 10 facts about PFAS, and a homeowner checklist, among other items. NGWA is also the publisher of the guidance document, Groundwater and PFAS: State of Knowledge and Practice.

As in 2018, NGWA is hosting educational events on PFAS this year:

NGWA Guidance Document


NGWA published Groundwater and PFAS: State of Knowledge and Practice, a guidance document on per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS). The guidance document, created by 36 NGWA volunteers who spent 1100 hours on it over 12 months, is a comprehensive eight-part piece exploring the potentially hazardous, and widely discussed, compounds in groundwater and soil. NGWA published the document to identify the known science and knowledge related to per- and polyfluoroalkyl (PFAS) compounds. It summarizes the fate, transport, remediation, and treatment of PFAS, as well as current technologies, methods, and field procedures.



PFAS in Groundwater Workshop: The Professional’s Challenge
June 18, 2019

The PFAS Management, Mitigation, and Remediation Conference
June 19-20, 2019

PFAS in Groundwater Workshop: The Professional’s Challenge
December 5, 2019



seth-kelloggSeth Kellogg, PG, a senior geologist at Geosyntec Consultants,​ was elected to the board of the Scientist and Engineers Section of National Ground Water Association (NGWA) in 2016.  She has 25 years of experience in evaluating complex contaminant hydrogeology and groundwater-surface water interactions, including large groundwater and sediment sites in New York and New Jersey.  As per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) have emerged as environmental concerns, she has been working with NGWA to advance the industry’s understanding and implementation of best practices.  She has presented and published on the technical and regulatory challenges of PFAS contamination, including co-authoring NGWA’s “Groundwater and PFAS: State of Knowledge and Practice” (NGWA 2018). In May 2018, Ms. Kellogg was recommended by members of the NGWA Board of Directors and to represent NGWA at the United State Environmental Protection Agency National Leadership Summit on PFAS.  Ms. Kellogg’s leadership on PFAS has also included several presentations educating industry professionals on the fragmented PFAS regulatory framework, PFAS characterization challenges, and the complexities of PFAS fate and transport.  She is currently serving as a program advisor and facilitator for NGWA’s PFAS in Groundwater Workshop (August 2018).

lauren-schapkerLauren Schapker, NGWA Government Affairs Director manages the Association’s government affairs program focusing on legislative and regulatory impacts around a number of key issues, including PFAS and other emerging contaminants, infrastructure, natural resources, and energy. In addition to policy, Lauren also oversees the sweeping grassroots and political engagement efforts of NGWA. Prior to joining NGWA, she served as director of government and political affairs for the Portland Cement Association, where she focused on energy and infrastructure issues.  Schapker also spent several years at Xenophon Strategies, a boutique public affairs firm, where she focused on representing local governments and municipalities with transportation and infrastructure needs.​​