Dioxin Cleanup

Public must bird-dog process at every step

Detroit Freepress Editorial

January 29, 2005

Disappointment is appropriate over the agreement to clean up dioxin in Midland and in areas downstream all the way out to Saginaw Bay in Lake Huron. The settlement framework devised by the state Department of Environmental Quality and Dow Chemical Co. this month is long on studies and short on actions beyond immediate cleanup for some of the most affected residents.

But lamenting the agreement is not going to change it. That means gearing up to take advantage of one of the better parts, its commitment to public involvement from here on out.

Dioxin is known to be scattered across the area from incinerator fallout and from discharges that have contaminated river sediment, which has washed ashore in floods. For families whose homes and yards are laced with the highest levels, the cleanup offers valuable relief.

Protections for everyone else remain much more blurry, even as the contamination appears to be spreading. Dioxin was found in area wildlife in sufficient amounts for the state to issue a special game advisory last fall, warning hunters not to eat deer, squirrel or turkey caught within the Tittabawassee River floodplain. Fish already were subject to state warnings. Elevated dioxin levels have been found farther downstream, in Saginaw River sediment well below where the Tittabawassee empties into it.

Yet dredging to remove contaminants remains on hold, awaiting more study of their location and extent. That only allows more time for more movement of sediment, continued contamination of fish and game, even more flooding. Meanwhile, another study could affect the final cleanup standard for property beyond the ones currently slated for work.

Dioxins are implicated in some cancers, changes in hormonal and immunity systems, and other problems. They take years and, in some cases decades, to degrade.

Residents and advocates will need to keep up unrelenting pressure for deadlines to be set and met, and for high standards to be upheld. The DEQ needs to be held to the transparency it has promised -- and be as serious about incorporating community input as officials say they are in seeking it. All of Michigan needs to watch because, if this is to be the pattern for future pollution cleanups, it has implications for the entire state's health.


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.