State won't fund dioxin study

Kathie Marchlewski , Midland Daily News



The State of Michigan wonít be paying for the study that local lawmakers believe could help resolve the debate over how much dioxin is safe to have in soil. A proposal for a state-funded $800,000 bioavailability study was nixed by Governor Jennifer Granholm in a line-item veto Thursday.

The project, proposed by state Rep. John Moolenaar and approved by the House and Senate, would have contracted with an out-of-state university or other qualified organization to find out how much dioxin is absorbed into the body when soil is digested.

The stateís residential direct contact criteria for dioxin Ė 90 parts per trillion to protect against health effects Ė is based on an assumption of how much dioxin is absorbed. Plugging an exact rate into the algorithm used to set the criteria could result in an shift upward Ė a move that has the potential to pull large areas of Midland out of the DEQís cleanup plan spotlight. Many contaminated properties are expected to have soil dioxin concentrations hovering around 200 parts per trillion.

Results from the proposed study would have been peer-reviewed by the Michigan environmental science board and released around June 2005. Moolenaar said the research still needs to be done "for the future concerns of the state and nation," despite the governorís dismissal of funding.

"Itís an important part of a resolution based on sound science," he said. "At the end of the day, a bioavailability study is a piece of the puzzle."

He proposed funding from the Clean Michigan Initiative after recognizing that any Dow-funded study had the potential to draw skepticism from environmental groups. He and lawmakers wanted swift and credible results.

But the 1998 voter-approved bond is not the place to get it, the groups argued.

"We urged the governor to veto (the proposal)," said James Clift, policy director for Lansing-based Michigan Environmental Council. "That is not an appropriate use of the money."

The money is earmarked for cleanup of "orphaned" sites, Clift said Ė those that donít have a responsible party to turn to for the expense. "In this case, Dow is a financially viable company."

Dow officials donít disagree. The company already is working on protocol for a bioavailability study and is expecting results of a half-million-dollar pilot late this year. Conducted by the University of Missouri-Columbia, the investigation launched as a response to contamination cleanup negotiations under Gov. John Englerís administration. It was stalled when Granholm took the state helm but resumed this spring.
"I think we agree with the governorís action here," said Dow spokesman John Musser. Over the next year, Dow expects to spend $1.5 million on the second phase of the independent, peer-reviewed study.
The Environmental Council accepts that peer reviews and state oversight can ensure credible results of a Dow-funded study. "We trust that state toxicologists can weed through what is a good study and what is a bad study," Clift said.

Granholm was not available for comment on the veto this morning, but Moolenaar said he expects the administration to offer an explanation for the move. If the veto was based on the argument that CMI money should not be used, an alternate state source could be considered, he said, adding he is not opposed to Dow funding.

©Midland Daily News 2004



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