Tittabawassee River Watch  www.trwnews.net

 

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE CONTACT:

OCTOBER 22, 2002 Diane Hebert Petitioner 989 832-1694

Michelle Hurd Riddick Lone Tree Council

989799-3313

Greg Whitney River Watch 989-781-4518

Terry Miller Lone Tree Council

989-686-6386

DOCUMENTS SHOW DEQ IN COLLUSION WITH DOW

TO CREATE "DIOXIN ZONE" IN MIDLAND THROUGH ILLEGAL AGREEMENT

DEQ Director and Deputy Working to Bail Out Polluter

Before Leaving Office

Government documents obtained by citizens in Saginaw County demonstrate that top management of the Michigan DEQ is working hand-in-glove with the Dow Chemical Company to craft an agreement relieving the company of costly dioxin cleanup requirements and exposing the public to dioxin contamination.

Rejected by attorneys for the state as "illegal" and "fatally flawed" the proposed agreement is now on a fast track to enable Dow to get relief before a new Governor takes office.

Under the agreement Dow and DEQ Deputy Director Art Nash are negotiating:

    • A dioxin zone would be created in Midland, where permissible levels of dioxin in soils could be more than ten times above the health standard that applies in the rest of the state;
    • The same lax standard could later be applied to highly contaminated soils along the floodplain of the Tittabawassee River in Saginaw County;
    • Key scientific decisions about the risk posed by dioxin and how to address it would be pulled from DEQ scientists and delegated to a process that Dow could manipulate;
    • Dow would be relieved of potentially huge financial liabilities for fouling Midland and areas downstream to Saginaw Bay.

Documents obtained by citizens include:

    • An e-mail from an Assistant Attorney General to Nash dated October 11 that warns the DEQ deputy that the agreement he is seeking to negotiate is illegal;
    • A previous e-mail from the Department of Attorney General instructing Nash to scrap a previous version of the agreement;
    • A letter from the U.S. EPA saying highly complicated scientific issues associated with the agreement will take months to resolve, and that the agreement should not proceed on a fast track.

"For years I have watched Dow manipulate and influence the system much to the detriment of Midland’s health. Disgusting as these memos are it’s politics and business as usual for Dow", says Midland activist Diane Hebert.

 

In the October 11 e-mail, Assistant Attorney General Robert Reichel wrote Nash: "Unfortunately, the course of action outlined in your note, and reflected in even the most recent Dow re-draft of the proposed order utterly fails on all those counts and is therefore illegal… what DEQ cannot legally do, as contemplated by the proposed order, is to delegate its own regulatory authority to third parties and arbitrarily approve in advance a particular regulatory action based upon the results of the studies.  DEQ cannot lawfully bargain away its continuing statutory duty under Parts 111 and 201 to require corrective action/cleanup as needed to protect public health and the environment. In sum, the course of action you propose is fundamentally illegal.  We urge you to instead enforce Dow's corrective action obligations as provided by law and stand ready to work with you to that end.

"…you should be aware of the factual background against which DEQ's actions in this matter may be judged by others. Regardless of DEQ management's own actual motivations for attempting to immediately conclude a written agreement with Dow on these issues, many outside observers will inevitably draw the inference that the proposed agreement is an "11th hour " and "sweetheart deal."  Frankly, we are at a loss to understand why the DEQ would want to unnecessarily subject itself to such criticism states an attorney in a letter to DEQ, Deputy Director Art Nash.

" This has always been about what Dow has wanted. It has never been about what was in the best interest of the public health or watershed. Dow’s political influence is immense," said Curt Dalton of Tittabawassee River Watch after reading one of the memos about Dow’s desire to get something in writing because the next governor may not be as favorable.

In a memo dated 10-03-02, the DEQ is informed that the "Corrective Action Consent Order", clearly purports, both in form and practical effect, to be a release from liability".