Tittabawassee River Watch EditorialBack to editorial page
John Taylor 12/7/02 (to Washington Post)
I am writing this letter in response to the article you presented yesterday in regards to our crisis here involving mainly our DEQ and Dow. To a lesser degree the director of our Department of Community Health is also playing a role.
I am a resident that lives on the Tittabawassee River and also the chair-person of a newly formed group of affected residents that lives on the river and the flood plain. Some people I have come in contact with have been deeply involved and had a life long commitment to monitoring Dow Chemical and all the pollution they have disposed of in various manners and also released into the air and the river. They have a great deal more knowledge of a historical nature than I do. I became involved with this crisis early this year when it was brought to our attention that a high level of dioxin contamination was discovered by General Motors near the confluence of the Tittabawassee River and the Tittabawassee River. One of the tests revealed that the contamination was over 7000 ppt with the rest also very high. This knowledge was given to our DEQ by GM a full year before it was made public. And the only reason it was ever made public was because of an anonymous informant that informed one of these environmental groups of it's existence. The reason for this leak was the fact that this person couldn't stomach what the Director of the DEQ was attempting to do about the contamination. This environmental group, The Lone Tree Council, could only get the information thru the freedom of information act. During the time that the FOIA was being presented it was further revealed that the director of the DEQ was attempting to have the state standards changed from 90 ppt to 150 ppt. This is the period of time when I became involved. I felt outrage at what was being done to us at the hands of the very agency that is supposed to protect us. My home was flooded in 1986 and my entire family spent the next two years in doctors offices due to the stuff that was washed into our home. There was a very distinct chemical odor. At this time I will not say that all of our ills back then were directly attributed to Dow. Obviously, many other things could have entered as well. But some of our health problems go back much further than 1986 and they involve what dioxin has been proven to cause. You had mentioned the year of 1986 as being key in this contamination. It is not. All of the soil samples taken were at varying depths and there never was a level of soil found that did not contain dioxin in amounts to cause concern. I have a letter on file from a Mr. Feerer that states this contamination is from Dow and it is probably historical which would indicate that Dow has dumped an enormous amount of pollutants into this watershed over the years. I am 55 years old. I grew up in this area and can remember when these rivers never froze. The amount of pollution that had to be deposited to keep a volume of water of this proportion from freezing in beyond comprehension. And the fact that, so far, all that is being addressed is the City of Midland and the Tittabawassee River watershed is cause for concern. This stuff did not stop at the confluence, it contaminated the entire Saginaw river watershed and the entire Saginaw Bay. Our drinking water comes from the Bay as does other municipalities.
There have been three different soil tests done along this river and not one of the tests was ever done on private property where the polluted water could have reached. The last series of tests revealed a high degree of contamination in all of the parks along the river below Dow. Now, when the DEQ and the MDCH were first forced to address this issue because of two separate " Petitioned Health Consultations" presented by the ATSDR, they mailed all of us along the river and in the flood plan a small packet of information about dioxin and ways to help protect ourselves. These self protection measures included wearing rubber gloves, a face mask and protective clothing. At least these measures presented a little concern for the public's health. Now, after all these tests were completed and these parks found to be highly contaminated, all our health department does is place signs in these areas warning people to be sure to wash thoroughly if one was to come in contact with the soil. All of our government officials, national, state and local refuse to take steps to limit access to these areas for the protection of the public. And they have never tested private soil. Only a family down stream that had free roaming chickens and were consuming the eggs. They tested the eggs which were found to contain a considerable amount of dioxin. This family was told not to consume the eggs. They got rid of the chickens. I personally believe there is a reason for the DEQ not testing private soil and that would be deniability. If it is not proven to exist they do not have to address it.
The "petitioned health consultations" were a farce. Mr. Harding and Mr. Haveman, the director of MDCH did everything in their power to prevent the public from gaining any knowledge of their existence and worse, were not going to hold any public meetings which they are required to do. When they finally did, and only because of pressure, the one that was held for my area, which is the watershed was held May 13th. This was two days before the public comment period was to end on the 15th. In this meeting that was presented by the state they attempted to divide all of the residents into small groups, which I believe was designed to keep everyone from hearing all the facts and concerns of all the other residents. And it worked to a certain degree. The Meeting that was to be held in Midland was canceled completely until many of us wrote to the ATSDR and demanded an extension, which was granted. Both of these consultations were made public in March, but nobody knew of their existence until their comment period was almost up. Does this sound like concern for the publics health?
During this past year Dow and the DEQ have been holding secret meetings on how to deal with this situation. We as residents are entitled by law to be all inclusive in all of these meetings that will have a direct impact on our lives. We requested this time after time and were always denied any participation. Dow sent people to Atlanta to attempt to manipulate the ATSDR. I personally have written to every agency that may be even remotely involved. All to no avail. I even had the EPA lose my e-mail on many occasions. How do you lose e-mail? I sent a letter to Tommy Thompson, which had to be mailed, hoping for some intervention on our behalf. After not receiving a reply for a considerable period of time I called to check on my letter and was informed that it was sent to the FDA. I questioned why it was sent to the FDA when it had to do with the EPA and was supposed to get a response from Tommy Thompson.
This consent order has been written and rewritten countless times to close any loopholes that would give the public any recourse in their own defense. I have written to the DEQ countless times with many blunt questions about their actions in compliance with Dow and to the detriment of the public. I always get some long lengthy line of what I will call BS that never does anything to protect the public. One question I have asked on a few occasions and only because I have done some research is " please tell me at least one occasion where the DEQ, the DNR, the MDCH, the EPA or Dow has ever done anything to alleviate any of this contamination or health problems that has been discovered over the past 30 years in regards to private citizens?" They cannot because it has never happened. There are countless documented reports of contaminated wells, birth defects, cancer and much more to warrant this question. Everything has been done and designed by Dow, the DNR back then, and the DEQ today to be inconclusiveand offer full deniability and no action while these people go on suffering. I have a document that was sent to me by the EPA that has been altered so severely in the past as to make it totally worthless and it addresses this exact question. I have made some friends in the EPA recently that I believe are dedicated and want to take the proper action. But as I said to them I am concerned about how much they will actually be able to do because of high level political intervention and high pressure lobbying.
I have asked the DEQ how it is supposed to benefit the public by raising the standards from 90ppt to 831ppt especially when many other states are lowering their standards well below 90 ppt. This is the most toxic substance known to man. I never received a logical answer for this either. Everything I have ever received from the DEQ administration has been designed for the sole purpose of pacification of the public. Nothing has ever been presented that would indicate any concern for the residents welfare, only Dow's. And the fact that there are many local public officials involved with legal council causes me great concern. All of these agencies and politicians are in place supposedly for the protection of the public. Yet all that is being displayed by all of them is great concern for Dow and loathing for us. For them to bring in this much legal representation to actually fight against what they represent is unconscionable. I would like to know how any of them can justify these actions. I can understand Dow's actions, but it is inconceivable for a public official to fight against the public and for a private concern when all the evidence shows that this private concern may well be a murderer. The way this consent order and the attached Dow funded health study is being presented is like putting a murderer on his own jury. Dow gets to oversee everything that is to take place and we are not. We have never been allowed to represent ourselves in any of the decision making. We have been forced to endure whatever the DEQ and Dow decides. And it is all too apparent that it is with our Governor's blessing. I have much documentation to back up my statements. In the beginning it was never my intention to harm Dow. They are a huge company that employees many people. I would never want to harm those people. But as the time draws near for this administration to step aside and a new one to take it's place, the actions and high pressure being displayed by the DEQ, Dow and now some local public officials to push this consent order thru lets me draw no other conclusion but that it is for Dow only and it's protection. There is no other honest reason for this sort of action to take place. We sued the DEQ, Mr. Harding and Mr. Nash, not Dow or the city of Midland. Yet it is now clear that they are acting as a single entity to protect Dow.
I have a great deal more that I could tell you such as High pressure well injection that was done at the hands of Dow that polluted countless wells and the incineration that takes place at Dow. Leaching waste sites that are polluting the ground. But I do not have all the factual evidence at hand yet. There are some that do and are more educated than I am in regards to Dow's continued manipulation of our legal and political system and pollution.
The main reason for this letter was to defend ourselves and substantiate your comments in the article. I am sure you will be receiving many more letters from the defenders of Dow. But at least you received one from the affected side.
Respectfully, John Taylor e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org
The Tittabawassee River Watch
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