Tittabawassee River Watch EditorialBack to editorial page
Richard A. Maltby, Midland Daily News 02/20/05
Dioxin mess needs to be cleaned up
In her article "Dioxin expert: Education a challenge" (February 11, 2005), Kathie Marchlewski covered Dr. Alvin L. Young's remarks on dioxin, its potential health effects and its effects on the environment and on hundreds of animals. Apparently, Dr. Young concluded that the toxin "won't kill a bullfrog."
Dr. Young's remarks may or may not be true if you compare the Midland and Tittabawassee River floodplain residents' plight with those who were faced with similar environmental disasters at Love Canal, Seveso, Times Beach, Anniston and Vietnam.
Let's take a look at Love Canal for comparison. Love Canal is located along the Niagara River in Niagara Falls, New York, and near the former Hooker Chemical Corporation plant site. While I was working as an environmental planner and as the deputy director for the Erie and Niagara Counties Regional Planning Board in Western New York, the planning staff exposed Love Canal for what it really was -- another major environmental catastrophe that eventually gained national notoriety as a Superfund cleanup site.
Love Canal was cited as a site-specific Geographical Area of Particular Concern by the planning board under the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Coastal Zone Management Program. The planning board then specified an implementation strategy of "neutralization or removal of chemical wastes and leachate" contained on the Hooker Chemical Corp.'s Love Canal waste disposal site. This was considered an appropriate implementation strategy for negating dangerous and health-threatening toxic wastes.
Lois Gibbs, a citizen leader and environmental activist, along with the planning board and staff, challenged the State of New York and Hooker Chemical Corporation to cleanup the hazardous waste site and reclaim the citizens' rights to a clean and healthy environment.
Gibbs relates in her book, "Dying from Dioxin": "In 1978, my neighbors and I discovered that our neighborhood in Love Canal, New York, had built next to 21,800 tons of buried toxic chemicals. When we bought our homes, none of us knew that Hooker Chemical Corporation, a division of Occidental Petroleum, had dumped 200 tons of a toxic, dioxin-laden chemical called trichlorophenyl and 21,600 tons of various other chemicals into Love Canal. We just knew there were too many miscarriages, too many birth defects, too many central nervous system problems, too many urinary tract disorders and too much asthma and other respiratory problems among us."
Should the Love Canal incident not be convincing, consider that the International Agency for Research on Cancer -- part of the World Health Organization -- announced in 1997, that the most potent dioxin, 2,3,7,8-TCDD, is now considered a Class I carcinogen, meaning a "known human carcinogen."
Of course, Gibbs and the planning board and staff had much more to say about the Love Canal travesty. In view of the Love Canal incident, however, let's not look away from the Midland and Tittabawassee River travesties. Let's be certain that the Love Canal incident is not repeated in the Saginaw Valley. Let's clean up the dioxin mess.
Richard Maltby is a Midland resident.
©Midland Daily News 2005
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