Dioxin deal still needs some meat on its bones

Bay City Times Editorial Tuesday, February 08, 2005

A skeleton of a plan to deal with dioxin along the Tittabawassee and Saginaw rivers has come out of the closet.

It's the framework for how Dow Chemical Co. and the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality plan to craft cleanup of the watershed.

News that the company and the state are moving forward to address high levels of dioxins found in the waters and soils along the rivers is reason to smile.

But only briefly.

The 73-page framework was written after Dow and state officials met behind closed doors since last summer.

Secret meetings might have been their way of getting things done, but they are a cause for public suspicion.

Now that the sun is shining on the deal, it's time to scrutinize the details.

Already, environmental groups are calling on Gov. Jennifer Granholm to scrap the framework.

They want Dow held to its state operating license, which says Dow must clean any dioxin contamination above the state level of 90 parts per trillion.

Dow wants the less-stringent federal standard of 1,000 parts per trillion.

These are the kinds of issues that still need to be resolved, through vigorous public debate.

For us, the framework is evidence that there is some progress toward addressing the very high dioxin levels discovered along the Tittabawassee and upper Saginaw Rivers five years ago.

The alarming dioxin levels were hush-hush at the DEQ until agency workers leaked the news about three years ago.

The recent agreement is an outline of how the state and Dow will proceed toward cleanup.

Part of that requires immediate action by Dow to cover exposed dioxin-contaminated soils on residential properties and to clean the insides of contaminated homes along the Tittabawassee and upper Saginaw.

The guts of a final cleanup deal still must be filled in.

That would include a plan on how to clean the river of dioxins from Saginaw, through Bay City, and into Saginaw Bay.

Dow officials say they don't know whether dredging will be needed to address dioxin in the lower river and bay.

We'll see.

While we wonder why this agreement needed to be written out of the public eye, it's good, at least, that Dow and the state are working together.

That's important, if cleanup of dioxin as quickly as possible is the goal.

So far, despite state operating permits and various demands for cleanup, no mopping up has begun.

The state could have continued down that regulatory path, ending in a years-long court battle.

Cleanup of the dioxin contamination would have waited for the case to clear the courts.

Now, there's at least a skeleton of a plan for action.

It's too soon to bury the deal.

Instead, let's take a closer look at it.

We all can help hang some meat on those bones in the months to come.

And build a cleanup plan with some muscle.

© 2005 Bay City Times


For additional articles like this one, go to the Tittabawasse River Watch web site www.trwnews.net for complete coverage of the Tittabawassee River Dow Chemical dioxin contamination saga. . The Newspaper / Media page of our site contains an extensive archive of media articles dating back to January 2002. The source organization's web site link is listed to the right of the article, visit often for other news in our area. The Newspaper / Media page may be accessed by scrolling down to the bottom of the CONTENTS section and clicking on the Newspaper/Media link.