The Stream, April 7, 2021: Michigan Requests Changes To PFAS Cleanup At Former Air Force Base


  • Gretchen Whitmer requests changes to PFAS cleanup requirements at the former Wurtsmith Air Force Base, in Michigan.
  • Flood irrigation practices are accessible to only one percent of metro Phoenix, Arizona.
  • The death toll from flooding in Indonesia and East Timor rises.
  • New research finds winter snowmelt is increasing in the American West.

Tens of thousands of abandoned oil wells in the Permian Basin could cost billions to clean up.

“This is a failure on so many levels. When you have people who are just in it for a quick buck, they don’t really care what they leave behind.” – Laura Briggs, a farmer in Pecos County, Texas. A statistical model developed by Grist and the Texas Observer found that nearly 20,000 oil wells in the Permian basin in Texas and New Mexico have been abandoned or will most likely be abandoned soon. The cleanup of abandoned wells, which often leak oil into surrounding groundwater, is estimated to cost at least $1 billion.

  • Why it matters: Texas’s $1.89 trillion economy depends on oil and gas development in the Permian basin. More than that, though, the state needs adequate supplies of water. Permian developments are among the state’s biggest industrial consumers of fresh water, and largest disposers of wastewater.


In Case You Missed It:

HotSpots H2O: Indigenous Environmental Activist Shot and Killed in Honduras – The environmental activist Carlos Cerros was killed in Honduras, in the town of Nueva Granada, at the end of March, local media reported.

What’s Up With Water – April 5, 2021 – This week’s episode covers a special election in Greenland, international research that sheds light on an overlooked source of pollution in marine waters and a massive coastal restoration project in Louisiana.

Flood Irrigation Reveals Environmental Injustices in Phoenix

Flood irrigation in Phoenix has become a point of contention as only one percent of homeowners in the city’s metro area receive it, the Guardian reports. The practice has revealed what one expert called “two Phoenixes,” where affluent homeowners receive an abundance of water while poorer communities make do with less.



Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer has invoked Section 332 of the National Defense Authorization Act, Michigan Radio reports. The invocation formally requests that the Department of Defense’s cleanup of PFAS near Oscoda Township’s Wurtsmith Air Force Base follows state standards and not federal standards for the so-called “forever chemicals.” Michigan standards establish cleanup criteria for groundwater and Maximum Contaminant Levels for seven types of PFAS chemicals in drinking water.

  • Why it matters: For years Wurtsmith Air Force base, which closed in 1993, has been recognized as one of the most polluted places in Michigan. As the community began to redevelop parts of the base, groundwater contamination from PFAS and other toxic substances below new facilities remained largely unchecked.


The BBC reports that the death toll from floods and landslides in Indonesia and East Timor rose to 113 as of Monday night. Officials in Indonesia warned that the number of deaths could rise even higher as dozens are still missing.


New research from the University of Colorado, Boulder indicates that snowmelt in the American West is increasing in all cold-season months from October to March. The impact of snowmelt in winter may be seen across several industries and agencies, including water resource management and skiing. The shift in snowmelt timing could also affect wildfire seasons and agricultural irrigation needs.

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