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Saginaw News Editorial 01/20/11

Torn From The Front Page: Work with the EPA on plans to address dioxin contamination

 Published: Thursday, January 20, 2011, 5:22 AM By Editorial Board | The Saginaw News

After months of relative public silence, the issue of dioxin contamination along the Tittabawassee River roared back to the forefront of public discussion this week.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency held three public hearings this week on the interim plan to address dioxin this year at high-use areas and homes along the river. The EPA proposes to evaluate 260 homes for dioxin this year.

Itís a big step forward in this decades-long saga over chemical contamination that Dow Chemical Co. of Midland caused from the 1930s into the 1970s.

All who are interested in this issue should get involved, and stay involved.

Because, unlike previous attempts to discuss dioxin ó or sweep the problem under the rug ó this time, there is progress, however slow and initially inadequate it may seem to some.

We were disappointed, for example, to learn that Michelle Hurd-Riddick, the Lone Tree Council representative to the Tittabawassee-Saginaw Rivers Contamination Community Advisory Group, resigned from the committee. She felt that the group was not addressing cleanup of dioxin well.

Hurd-Riddickís dedication to the cause of cleaning dioxin from our rivers and protecting people along them cannot be questioned. She has been a steadfast and often vocal environmental leader on this issue for years.

As a member of the community advisory group, Hurd-Riddick had a place at the table of leaders lending a local perspective to federal and state agencies involved in dioxin discussions.

Itís apparently easier to hurl complaints from the outside than to work within the system, we suppose.

But the advisory group should move quickly to replace Hurd-Riddick with another member of Lone Tree Council, the Bay City-based environmental group long involved in the dioxin issue.

Few on that advisory group or in the community likely will get all they want regarding any cleanup of our rivers. But all who get involved can count on their voices being heard.

That was the point of the two informal public hearings the EPA held this week in Freeland and Thomas Township, culminating in the public hearing Wednesday at Saginaw Valley State University.

The EPA proposes to evaluate 260 homes along the river for the presence of dioxin, and in some cases taking action to protect people from the chemical. Measures could include removing soil or adding soil, and moving fire pits and gardens where people are more likely to come into contact with the ground.

These would be interim measures to keep dioxin away from people, pending more cleanup in the future, the EPA says.

Not good enough, say some. Lone Tree Council, for example, wants relocation at Dowís expense of anyone living along the river who wants to move ó particularly women of childbearing age and children ó either as an interim measure or a final option.

The Community Advisory Group, while agreeing with the EPAís interim plans for the riverside this year, also said the EPA should work with each property owner on a case-by-case basis. The group said this week that it will look further into buying out property owners, and why the EPA doesnít think that is necessary.

For many of those who have been involved or have at least become familiar with this issue for the past 30-40 years, what is happening on the dioxin dilemma now is remarkable.

In recent years, some cleanups have been done, studies performed, with a year of interim work ahead to protect people from the chemical.

Considering how long it took to get to this point, thatís slow progress.

But itís progress nonetheless.

A result of steady, long-term pressure from Lone Tree Council and others to finally start addressing the dioxin legacy that haunts our waters and riverbanks.

Thatís what local people who choose to be involved can accomplish.

Not everyone is going to get exactly what they want, but anyone can help work toward a final compromise, and a solution.

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Comments Feed View:

Saginawgto January 20, 2011 at 7:50AM Follow

How about making Dow actually clean up the mess they created? It's most certainly not fair that those who live along the river have to keep dealing with the fact that they live along a river that's been destroyed by Dow. That's not all though, the contamination has gone into the rivers and tributaries down stream from there too. The fish down stream of Dow are not safe to eat, as is posted at every dock along that river system. The parks have signs telling you to wash your child's hands if they come in contact with the soil while paying in the park, how the h*ll do you play in a park and not come into contact with the soil? That doesn't even touch on the health problems that their mess has created. It's absolutely pathetic that Dow hasn't been made to do whatever they need to do and spend whatever they need to spend to clean up their mess.

wtph January 20, 2011 at 8:10AM Follow

I generally do not blame things on 'politics', but just look at how important Dow is to this area. Figure how much money Dow and it's employees contribute to the economy and that right there may be the reason why this slam-dunk issue has not been addressed sooner. Everybody, including Dow, knows that they are responsible and they know that dioxins are nothing to mess around with. The more time that goes by without this stuff being cleaned up, the more damage that is done to any human or animal that comes in contact with it. But what sense of urgency does Dow have to clean it up? None.

SRV Ron January 20, 2011 at 8:28AM Follow

Funny that we hear nothing about the toxic waste from the former Leonard Refinery, or the waste dumped into the Pine River, which also flows into the Tittabawassee River, from the now fenced off toxic zone that used to be a chemical plant in St Louis, or from the effects of hundreds of pounds of highly toxic polybrominated biphenol they manufactured that got into our milk supply years ago. Then again, there is no "Cash Cow" to go after as both industries are now long gone along with their assets.

The Tittabawasee River is far cleaner now then it was in the 60s when the river smelled of phenol and rarely froze over. Still, that does not ease the concern over past contamination.

The best solution is to use common sense, not resort to "Junk Science." Do the testing to find where the high levels have been concentrated over the years by flooding. Only do the cleanup if the removal process doesn't create further contamination downstream. That stuff is not going anywhere as long as it remains buried. With the proper help, the environment will eventually clean itself of the remaining low level contamination.

Saginawgto January 20, 2011 at 9:47AM Follow

"With the proper help, the environment will eventually clean itself of the remaining low level contamination." How exactly are you defining low level contamination? Just curious, you're not on the Dow payroll are ya?

SRV Ron January 20, 2011 at 7:23PM Follow

Molecules, especially complex organic ones such as the dioxins, will eventually be broken down by the environment. Dow was not the only source for that waste product. They also occur naturally in Nature. From a web search; "They can occur as a by-product of other processes, though. Examples where dioxins can result are the production of PVC or the bleaching of paper. In nature, they are produced in volcanoes and forest fires."

A toxic element such as Mercury is not broken down and can form Methyl Mercury, a molecule that is far more toxic then Mercury or dioxins alone. It is present in all of those spiral bulbs Made In China that we are being be forced to use for lighting. Don't throw away or break one. Since Mercury evaporates into the air, you will be exposing yourself to something far more toxic then the small amounts of dioxin now buried in the soil.

zagmeyer January 20, 2011 at 10:49AM Follow

I don't blame Hurd-Riddick for leaving the CAG. The few I attended, Annette Rummel continuely babbled on about dioxin not being toxic. Who wants to sit through hours of that every month? "Leaders" like her make the whole thing a dog and pony show.

Katt January 20, 2011 at 11:01AM Follow

I read Riddick's statement offering constructive suggestions to the EPA proposal. "Hurling complaints" is a cheap shot. She is in a much better position than most including the editorial board of the paper to comment on pollution of the river.

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