Pollution Tests Bill is unreasonable response to dioxin problem

Editorial The Detroit Free Press

December 27, 2005

Due in part to some missteps by the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality, Gov. Jennifer Granholm has before her an ill-conceived bill that would effectively cripple state efforts to respond to pollution problems. She should not sign it, and anyone who professes to care about the environment in this state cannot seriously want her to.

The bill has one of those titles that belies its impact. Calling it the "Homeowner Fairness Act" is doubly misleading, because home owners could be hurt if the state is hampered by the law in cleaning up a contamination problem.

The legislation was introduced by state Rep. John Moolenaar, R-Midland, after a public outcry over the DEQ's blunt notifications 2 1/2 years ago that, based on broad testing, about 2,000 homes along or near the Tittabawassee River in Midland and Saginaw Counties were on land contaminated by dioxin from nearby Dow Chemical Co. Such a declaration obviously has an impact on property values and restricts the ability of residents to do such things as move soil until the responsible polluter cleans it up.

The DEQ didn't do a very good job of explaining itself and addressing the legitimate concerns of residents about being told they were living in a contaminated "facility," as the DEQ labeled the area. DEQ designation, notification and response procedures have been changed since the public outcry along the Tittibawassee.

Moolenaar's bill is an overreaction. It would require the DEQ to test for pollution in every individual parcel of a contaminated area and allow the suspected polluter to contest the findings, case by case. The cost of such testing would be enormous, draining money much better spent on cleanup plans, as would the delays in fixing pollution problems that really do affect property values. Such roadblocks could also prevent planned cleanups using previously committed EPA Superfund money.

From a scientific standpoint, such testing also is unnecessary. If pollution is spilled into a river and testing downstream finds contamination in, say, every 50th property, it is a reasonable and prudent assumption that the 49 in between are damaged as well.

The shared goals here should be to clean up pollution and hold the responsible parties accountable. Spending a lot of time and money on testing doesn't get Michigan there.

The DEQ obviously has some work to do with the good people of the Tittibawassee River Valley, who need the state on their side to solve the dioxin problem. This bill is no means to that end.

For additional articles like this one, go to the Tittabawassee 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.