Tittabawassee River Watch Editorial          Back to editorial page  

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Richard Maltby 11/19/04

Family health should be cornerstone

To the editor, Midland Daily News:

Much has been said about the dioxin contamination of the Tittabawassee River. Much less has been said about the contamination of other rivers in the Saginaw Valley. As reported in the state Department of Environmental Quality’s 2002 Michigan Water Chemistry Monitoring report, six of the Saginaw Bay tributaries have high water quality indicators of pollution: Cass, Flint, Saginaw, Shiawassee, Tittabawassee and West Branch Tittabawassee.

The Flint is the worst polluted river of the six. The Cass leads all rivers in sulfate, potassium and organic carbon. The Flint leads in nitrate, phosphorous, ortho phosphate, sodium, dissolved solids, conductivity, pH, temperature, mercury, cadmium, chromium, copper, nickel, lead and zinc. The Saginaw leads in ammonia, nitrite, kj.nitrogen, suspended solids and turgidity. The Shiawassee leads in hardness and alkalinity. The Tittabawassee leads in chloride and dissolved oxygen. The West Branch Tittabawassee is comparable to all rivers in pH. All rivers except the West Branch Tittabawassee have varying concentrations of dioxins and furans: spikes as high as 3,400 parts per trillion in the Tittabawassee River; as high as 7,200 ppt at the confluence of the Tittabawassee and Saginaw rivers; and as high as 2,600 ppt in the Saginaw River near the Saginaw Bay.

How should the residents of the Saginaw Valley deal with this problem? Obviously something should be done by DEQ to address the pollution of the Saginaw Valley rivers. While state officials and The Dow Chemical Co. negotiate behind closed doors a plan of action to cleanup the Tittabawassee, state officials should develop publicly a plan of action in consultation with the residents of the Saginaw Valley for the cleanup of all the Saginaw Bay tributaries.

It seems Gov. Jennifer Granholm had the right answer when she was the state attorney general, advocating a plan of an of action to clean up the pollution in the state: 1. Creation of a citizen board to operate the state DEQ and to hold hearings and take public input on proposed pollution permits, rules and policies. 2. A plan to phase out the use and release of the most dangerous chemicals, including dioxin, in Michigan. 3. Signing an executive order putting protection of children’s health at the center of the proposed rules and permits. 4. Expansion of data available to citizens on toxic chemical use by industry, pollution conditions at public beaches, and business and municipal compliance with environmental statutes. 5. Signing a right-to-know compact among the Great Lakes states enabling citizens to measure environmental performance and progress by those states.

Now, rather than closed-door negotiations, shouldn’t we make protection of family health a cornerstone of the state’s environmental protection policy?

Richard A. Maltby


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