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Midland Daily News Editorial 3/1/06

Our View: Compromise will be in order
Midland Daily News 03/01/2006
    The government seems to be asking The Dow Chemical Co. if it is serious about addressing local dioxin contamination.

    At least, that seems to be at the heart of recent criticism of the work plan the company proposed, something it must do to comply with its operating license.

    It would be easier to dismiss slams such as "severely inadequate" and "fundamentally flawed" if they had come from grousers with little knowledge of the details. But those were the words of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

    Dow’s response was that it understood the concerns, but the regulatory agency overseeing the remediation efforts isn’t the EPA – it is the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality, so that agency’s opinion will be the guiding factor.

    The DEQ hasn’t yet offered its formal comments yet, but is expected to do so this week, starting the 60-day timer within which Dow must resubmit. Meanwhile, a draft of DEQ’s initial comments has been made public and indicates it is in "substantial agreement" with the EPA.

    The clash is puzzling. Dow has decades of experience with environmental regulations. So what happened here? Did the EPA and DEQ not communicate adequately with Dow? Or is Dow the problem? We don’t really know.

    Dow’s work plans – available at  www.mi.gov/deqdioxin  – detail studies that would determine how much dioxin contaminates Midland, the Tittabawassee River and its flood plain, and how far the historically deposited toxin has stretched. The studies would help determine cleanup strategies. Dow also would test for other potentially harmful chemical compounds.

    The EPA says the proposed testing plan is too sparse to produce technically supportable information about the nature and extent of contamination, and that the timeline is too long. It also says the human health risk assessment as designed fails to comply with federal and state risk assessment policies.

    The EPA’s opinion counts because while the DEQ oversees remediation efforts, that authority is granted by the EPA. If DEQ action is deemed insufficient, the EPA could step in, although it has given no indication of doing so.

    Regardless of Dow’s assertion that its plans are sufficient, the agencies the company must satisfy clearly disagree. Even lesser points are in contention. Dow doesn’t want to use accepted methodology for human health risk assessment, for example, but the EPA says the company has offered no explanation of why it considers its protocols superior.

    We suggest Dow bite the bullet, find out what will satisfy the DEQ when it offers its formal comments and then proceed in that manner.


©Midland Daily News 2006

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