Tittabawassee River Watch EditorialBack to editorial page
Robert Cowling 5/8/03
The following is a speech prepared by a Robert Cowling, a Tittabawassee River
floodplain resident, for the 5/8/03 Dow shareholder meeting. For whatever reason,
the author was not allowed into the meeting to deliver it:
Thank you for the opportunity to speak this afternoon.
I am a resident of Saginaw, downstream from the Midland Dow plant.
It seems that some 17 years ago there was a flood at the Midland Dow plant
that caused the contents of the ponds on Dow property to overflow their
banks and dump into the Tittabawassee River. The water was so deep that
people say that the entire pond system was completely flooded for days.
At that time a massive amount of Dioxin and other chemicals were dumped
into the river. Someone at Dow had to know that it was a problem. No one
It takes General Motors, trying to bail themselves out of a destroyed
wetlands rap, to get anyone to discover the problem. All we hear from Dow
from the day that the news comes out is that "It's not ours".
Then, along with the Department of Environmental Quality and the help of
one of the most politically immoral and unethical governors that Michigan
has had, Dow tries to escape from any blame or responsibility for the
ecological mess that is now the Tittabawassee River.
With the assistance of the Midland "community", Dow is portrayed as a
victim of the state government and the environmentalists.
We are submitted to full-page ads describing how Dioxin is a product of
"old forest fires" and "people burning garbage". We are told that Dow is a
"good neighbor". To look at all of the good that Dow did for the community.
Apparently the only "burning garbage" should be the Dow 'science' that this
is based on...
So far nearly every community that has Dow as a neighbor is fighting Dow
and the Dow brand of science that downplays its major chemical releases.
In the now infamous Dow/DEQ back room deal, Michigan would be, I believe,
one of the only states that would have actually raised the acceptable level
When I moved to Saginaw over 8 years ago, I thought little about living
near the Dow plant. I believed that they were capable of handling the
massive amount of trust their industry must have. They work with deadly
chemicals everyday. They must take things very cautiously and safely. Now
I'm not so sure...
Then there was the release a few years ago that killed a worker, It appears
that someone at Dow was using duct tape on a joint for a pipe.
To answer the Dow Chemical ads that they subjected me to I have only to say
that if they are being a "good neighbor" than we all appear to be suffering
from being loved to death.
Dow Chemical has, in my mind, shown nothing but dishonesty and
irresponsibility in its dealings with the community and has proven that
money and politics should not mix. Millions of lobbyist dollars have been
spent in Dow's attempt to escape responsibility and accountability and
millions have been spent on self-serving science to cloud the issues of the
dangers of dioxin.
I strongly urge the support of this amendment in the hopes that it will
help strip the lies and layers of deliberate manipulation and expose the
wanton disregard for the environment and health and safety of the
communities surrounding the many Dow Chemical plants.
In an age where the chemical industry has the ear of the decision makers in
Washington so closely, and wags the dog to get what it wants, it is left up
to the shareholders to govern from within. Someone has to take safety and
We, the residents that live downstream from the Midland Dow plant, have
learned 2 things since all of this happened: Dow can not be trusted to live
up to it's public relations and that our own state government can not be
trusted to represent the citizens. You, the owner/shareholders of Dow
Chemical are the only group that has a chance to bring social and
environmental responsibility equal with profit as a driving force in Dow
Dow needs to live up to its public relations persona... If they had 17
years ago then I probably wouldn't be here today. None of this would have
Thank you for your time.
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