Interim dioxin cleanup under way
Kathie Marchlewski, Midland Daily News 05/08/2005
The objective: To keep people from being exposed to dioxins in flying and floating dirt and dust. The task: Visit 433 homes to see what residents want done -- carpet, duct and hard surface cleaning and landscape services such as loose soil covering and grass planting.
AKT Peerless Environmental Services, the Saginaw-based firm hired by The Dow Chemical Co. to lead the project, has been meeting with property owners since mid-April. Work is already in motion and moving quickly.
"We have to," said Dow spokesman John Musser. "We're under a deadline to have this done by year end."
While there are only about 250 property parcels included in what the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality has deemed "Priority 1" areas, some are condominium developments with more than one residence. AKT Peerless is nearly 20 percent through its list, said Brian Eggers, company principal.
"Everybody has been very nice. They've been very happy to see us," said Annette Lucas, an AKT environmental engineer who has been consulting homeowners on projects.
She and other AKT Peerless representatives are walking properties inside and out to determine what can be done to keep dust and dirt circulation down until the state and Dow come up with a final remedy. They provide vouchers for local contractors to perform the work and homeowners typically get a choice of three businesses to contact.
Some people have turned down the services, Lucas said. Others are consenting to the work, but are uncertain about its necessity.
"I don't think it's up to me to say no," said Donald Blasy of Blasy Electric Inc., who owns nine properties in the high priority area, one of them a rental home on Wexford Avenue. "I'm no expert. If they're offering things as interim solutions, we'll take them."
His other properties are industrial, commercial or empty lots, so they aren't targeted for response activities -- yet. Dow first is tackling places where people live. By the end of the year, it is expected to announce plans to deal with other contaminated land.
Blasy said he understands the activities taking place are "interim" and is more concerned about the end solution and how it will affect his property. He also questions the criteria used by the state in selecting areas.
"I want to know what is the level on my property. I don't know," he said. "No one has told me."
"Priority 1" areas are residential properties the DEQ suspects have soil with contamination levels near or exceeding the federal action level of 1,000 parts per trillion. The DEQ based its selections on previous testing in the city of Midland during the 1980s and 1990s. Based on information such as wind direction and the historical sampling, the DEQ identified the potentially most contaminated sites.
The "Priority 1" selection seems somewhat random to Blasy and others who have interest in properties located within areas of concern.
"You can't take and draw a line and say, 'These properties are contaminated and these aren't,'" Blasy said.
His rental home, for example, has an adjoining empty lot. Since it does not have a house on site, it's not included in the mix of properties Dow is required to address. But renters' children play there, and the lawn is sparse with several spots of bare dirt.
"It's not technically a Priority 1 area, but it sort of meets the spirit of what was intended," said DEQ spokesman Bob McCann.
Musser said Dow plans to deal with such special circumstances on a case-by-case basis. "Common sense will dictate," he said.
Midland's Safe Haven, a center where low-income, some mentally impaired and sometimes homeless people spend days, is kitty-corner from Blasy's rental home. Director Liz Palmer said she is taking a "wait and see" approach, but the contamination is a concern.
"We're in this target zone and I feel responsible for these people," she said. The center has 40 to 50 visitors a day who, in warm seasons, take care of the yard, garden, and relax outside. Safe Haven hasn't received notice or a visit from AKT Peerless. Palmer believes it should.
"We have two big populations of special citizens here, and we spend a lot more time outside (than some residents of homes)," she said.
Musser and McCann said the property likely will be studied for interim activities. "The whole concept is to reduce exposure," McCann said. "This is a site that could pose potential exposure risks."
Other sites also might be included in the interim response activities.
"There are special circumstances you can't anticipate. As we move forward, we have to look at situations like that," McCann said.
Areas targeted Under the interim agreement between The Dow Chemical Co. and the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality, three areas of Midland are targeted for response activities intended to reduce exposure to dioxin from soil and dust:
* North of the Dow facility, bounded by Lyon Street on the north and west, Tibbs Street to the east and a railroad to the south.
* The neighborhood near Corning Lane, bounded by Saginaw Road to the west, Bay City Road to the north, Bierlein Services to the east and Mark Putnam Road to the south.
* The neighborhood bounded by Mark Putnam Road to the south, Bierlein Services to the west and Bay City Road to the north and Sam Street to the east.
©Midland Daily News 2005
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