State law would require federal help for Oscoda water issue

OSCODA TOWNSHIP (WJRT) - (01/10/17) - It's the next step in getting safe drinking water to hundreds of people who need it.

Governor Rick Snyder signed Senate Bill 950, sponsored by state Senator Jim Stamas, into law Tuesday.

It is now Public Act 545 of 2016.

The governor's office sent out a press release explaining it this way:

"The state or federal government must now provide alternative water supplies to users whose water is contaminated as a result of substances migrating from government owned and operated properties under legislation signed today by Gov. Rick Snyder. The legislation was prompted by groundwater and well contamination at the former federal Wurtsmith Air Force Base in Oscoda."

It's an amendment to the Safe Drinking Water Act.

Bottom-line, the law is meant to force the U.S. Air Force to step up and fix a problem it created years ago in the Oscoda area.

For decades, a firefighting foam was used at the former Wurtsmith Air Force Base. Potentially dangerous chemicals known as PFC's were unknowingly left behind.

Now, they're showing up in the well water.

We found some families using bottled water and water filters when we visited in September. The state has been paying for those short-term solutions.

Long-term, homeowners, the state and District Health Department #2 feel it's up to the Air Force to make things right.

That means getting people hooked up to the municipal water system.

While there isn't a firm number, the health department estimates there are up to 600 families that need the assistance.

Stamas, a Republican in the 36th District, is grateful Snyder signed the legislation.

"It is only the next step in making sure that we find a way and a solution to providing that long term solution for the residents of Oscoda. It's something we need to look at across the state as we look at our infrastructure, but today is a good step," Stamas said.

People impacted by this new law won't see any immediate changes in how they get clean water.

It'll still be through bottled water or filters.

A timeline for the permanent fix has not been figured out yet.

The health department hopes to have another town hall meeting on the issue to update people this spring.

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