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History says Dow skirts problem

Michelle Hurd Riddick

Guest Columnist, Saginaw News, My View 3/22/04

Dow Chemical's claim that it has never tried to skirt the dioxin issue ("Dow exec defends company", March 4, 2004), is at best gross misinformation. For more than two decades, Dow has been able to manipulate, spin, and skirt its responsibility for dioxin contamination with all the force and finances befitting it Fortune 500 status (TRW note: Dow moved into the Fortune 50 in March 2004).

In 2002, Dow representatives denied the dioxin was theirs, even though Dow's own testing showed dioxin in the fish of the Tittabawassee River and Saginaw Bay as early as 1978. Dow did skirt responsibility for dioxin issue when it was granted two consent orders from the state of Michigan in 1987 and in 1996, releasing it from state liability for any dioxin releases into the Tittabawassee River.

Dow did attempt as recently as 2002 to skirt the dioxin issue when it colluded with the previous DEQ/Engler administration to have the Tittabawassee River floodplain removed from its license, thereby releasing it from responsibility to clean up its contamination.

For years Dow officials have denied regulators access to their plant site to better ascertain sources of dioxin years, Dow, aided by city fathers, has been able to prevent additional dioxin testing in the city of Midland. Dow has even blamed the dioxin on backyard fires. The dioxin fingerprint belongs to Dow and Dow as been skirting the issue for decades.

Susan Carrington, the Dow executive in charge of the dioxin issue, says Dow is committed to doing what is right and that doesn't mean acting on emotion. Imagine your concern, angst, and emotional state if a chemical plant contaminated your yard, your river, and the place you chose to raise your children, or it you could no longer freely move soil or had to limit your child's activities in the yard.

Don't allow Dow and its apologists to cite emotion as not relevant. There is nothing more personal than our homes and our children. It is unethical and arrogant for Dow to decide how much dioxin is to be tolerated on one's personal property, in public parks or in their bodies.

Dow disputes the toxicity of dioxin. This is not grounded in science or the prevailing body of scientific evidence. Dioxin is an endocrine disrupter known to affect the immune system at low doses.  In her address last January to the Loma Linda University School of Public Health, Linda Birnbaum, Ph.D., U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, said: " There is no safe level for dioxin."  Despite Dow's relentless effort to detoxify dioxin, and marginalize citizen concerns as emotional, the weight of evidence from the independent scientific community confirms, time and again, the pervasive toxic effects of dioxin.

With the world-class public relations department, an army of political lobbyists, and the power of philanthropy (TRW note: Tittabawassee Township just received $40,000 grant from the Dow Foundation to build a playground), Dow has been able to undermine public health, the natural resources, and well being of one of the largest watersheds in the Great Lakes. Imagine a Tittabawassee River where kids actually swim in the river and at the walleye festival you actually eat walleye, not imported Alaskan pollack.

The restoration of the Tittabawassee River begins with Dow shutting down the public relations spin, assuming responsibility, stopping its skirting of the issue and abiding by the laws of the land like any other good citizen.


Michelle Hurd Riddick of Saginaw Township is a member o the Lone Tree Council, a Saginaw Bay watershed watchdog organization. She is a emergency room nurse, past chair of the Saginaw County Solid Waste Planning Committee and a member of the Saginaw Lead Initiative Program.

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