Kathie Marchlewski, Midland Daily News
The environmental groups asking for mid-Michigan waterways that are clean enough for worry-free swimming and fishing say it's too early to tell if the state and Dow Chemical Co. will deliver.
Wednesday's announcement on the framework held little evidence that immediate and comprehensive dioxin cleanup will follow, said Michelle Hurd Riddick of Bay City-based Lone Tree Council. "There just wasn't a lot of detail for eight months of high-level negotiations. We can't comment extensively -- the devil is in the detail and there wasn't a lot of detail."
The DEQ today is expected to release a full version of the navigational document Dow will be required to follow in its efforts to remediate regional dioxin contamination. When that happens, state and local environmental groups hope to find the elements they say are crucial to protecting public and environmental health are in place.
At year-end they penned a letter to Gov. Jennifer Granholm's office requesting that the public have a role in ensuring that the cleanup is thorough, its schedule concrete and plans and timeline legally enforceable.
What the environmental community doesn't want is a short-term fix.
"You can put fresh soil on people's yards for a hundred years, but it's not a solution," said Kathy Henry, lead litigant in the two-year-old dioxin-induced class action suit pending before the Michigan Supreme Court. She remains leery that interim actions promised will be effective. "This is just putting on a Band-Aid that's going to be ripped off when it floods again," she said.
Her Freeland Road home has flooded four times over the past year, including a mild incident last week, when rain combined with melting snow lifted water above riverbanks.
She and her husband, Gary, won't be satisfied until the Tittabawassee is dredged. "The final solution is to get it out of the river," she said. "Nothing else you do is going to make much of a difference. This is just more talk. They need to take action."
Dow's Susan Carrington said action will come more swiftly now that the framework is in place. "It enables us to move forward more quickly than otherwise would have been the case," she said.
Dow and the DEQ also promise the public will be involved in the long-range plans for remediation.
Environmentalists want to make sure that happens. "I'm hoping that they are committed to an open and transparent process with agencies driving the agenda, not The Dow Chemical Company," Riddick said.
DEQ Director Steve Chester said the framework will open the process for public involvement and that meetings with the many stakeholders will be announced in upcoming weeks.
©Midland Daily News 2005
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