Environmentalists upset with DEQ-Dow pact

Tuesday, January 25, 2005

JEREMIAH STETTLER THE SAGINAW NEWS

Environmental groups have denounced as a "failure" a pact between the state Department of Environmental Quality and Dow Chemical Co. for dealing with dioxin contamination.

"All this agreement promises is a house cleaning, some lawn services and more studies," said James Clift, policy director for the Michigan Environmental Council. "It doesn't even rise to the level of a short-term fix. It's no fix at all and, in fact, moves us backward on a public health issue of monumental importance."

State leaders emerged from seven months of closed-door negotiations with Dow last week to reveal plans for addressing some the most contaminated properties in Saginaw and Midland counties.

The agreement calls on Dow to immediately reduce exposure on properties with dioxin levels 1,000 parts per trillion or higher -- actions that might include covering contaminated soil, cleaning homes and interior ducts, and flagging the most polluted areas.

The pact gives Dow until the end of 2005 to submit strategies for a long-range cleanup plan.

"This gives us immediate protection in areas of greatest risk and creates a blueprint for where we go from here," said DEQ spokesman Robert McCann.

But environmentalists say the plan lacks sufficient haste.

"This agreement is a failure," said Michelle Hurd Riddick, spokeswoman for the Lone Tree Council, a Bay City-based environmental group. "It's promoted as results-oriented, but the only result will be further delays and more studies. It does little to protect the health of residents."

She criticized the agreement for derailing deadlines contained in the previous plan. Under that proposal, Dow would have completed work in parks abutting the Tittabawassee River and face a spring deadline for drafting a comprehensive work plan.

"These are baby steps," she said.

Not so, McCann said. State officials actually have accelerated cleanup along the Saginaw River and Saginaw Bay -- water bodies previously unlisted in Dow's proposals. The company must address both in its end-of-year report to the DEQ.

Dow also has committed to immediately address areas of highest contamination in Saginaw and Midland counties. That work begins in February.v

© 2005 Saginaw News.


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