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Oscoda schools take precaution against PFAS toxins with new fountains

OSCODA, MI – Oscoda Area Schools opened its doors for the first day back to school with one thought on administrators’ minds….every student will drink clean municipal water on campus.

Students don’t have to worry about drinking contaminated water. The district will replace every well water drinking fountain with newer models capable of filtering out PFAS toxins.

The newer fountains are equipped with sensors that automatically dispense water. The fountain has already been used over 43,000 times. It keeps track of that too.

“That changeover is now taking place,” said school board trustee William Gaines.

The well water fountains are still safe to drink, but the school doesn’t want to take any risks by keeping them. The project costs about $122,000. Oscoda schools superintendent Scott Moore said the official conversion will take until the end of September to complete.

Much of the PFAS problem in Iosco County is contributed to the firefighting foam used at Wurtsmith Air Force Base. The underground plumes on campus stem from use of that same firefighting foam, but it didn’t come from the base.

“In 1981 there was a massive forest fire in Huron National Forest that came right up to the school,” said Moore.

Another fire occurred on school property a decade later at the school bus parking lot.

The ’81 and ’94 fires drew some concern.

The school fears the contaminated foam will infiltrate the wells at the elementary-middle and high schools. They sit on the same property.

“With these geologic and hydrologic considerations you don’t really know what’s going to happen in the future,” said Gaines.

The schools will eventually dispose of all the old water fountains.

The superintendent summed up the situation this way, “we want to be proactive.”