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Air Force won't supply clean water to polluted Michigan city

Air Force Staff Sgt. Shane Pentheny, 22nd Civil Engineer Squadron Water and Fuels System Maintenance technician, pours water into a small vial in order to test the chlorine, fluoride and pH levels March 9, 2017.

ERIN MCCLELLAN/U.S. AIR FORCE

By ASSOCIATED PRESS Published: April 24, 2017

OSCODA, Mich. — The U.S. Air Force is pushing back against a new law that requires it to provide safe drinking water to residents in a northeastern Michigan city affected by chemical pollution from the former Wurtsmith Air Force Base.

Air Force officials argue they won't provide clean water because the law is discriminatory, MLive reported.

A state law that took effect in January says the military must supply safe drinking water to Oscoda residents whose wells were polluted with toxic chemicals from Wurtsmith.

"The Michigan law does discriminate as it only applies to federal and state agencies, not to all entities and persons," Air Force spokesman Mark Kinkade said.

Republican Sen. Jim Stamas sponsored the bill after military officials informed him last year that the Air Force would supply an alternative water source to affected properties if Michigan passed a law requiring that.

"I am extremely disappointed in the U.S. Air Force for not living up to its word and its responsibilities," Stamas said. "The federal government needs to be held accountable for what they did, and I will be asking Attorney General Bill Schuette to pursue action to enforce the law."

The Air Force says the Department of Defense prevents it from spending money on alternative water unless a private well tests for chemical concentrations above the federal health advisory level.

The latest testing shows the pollution is moving south of two waterways previously thought of as natural buffers. A well near Oscoda High School has also tested positive for chemical concentrations above the advisory level.

"The science on these substances is evolving in the direction of them being known to be more dangerous than we previously thought," U.S. Rep. Dan Kildee of Flint said. "I don't think they (Air Force) are moving with the urgency they should be."

A town hall meeting on the issue will be held Tuesday.

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