Commissioners give dioxin measure a boost
 Thursday, October 27, 2005

 Mid-Michigan state lawmakers gained more clout in trying to pass a controversial state bill dealing with dioxin along the Tittabawassee River floodplain.

In an impassioned debate this week, the Democratic-led Saginaw County Board of Commissioners voted 10-5 to endorse a Republican state-sponsored bill known as the Homeowner Fairness Act that would require the state Department of Environmental Quality to severely restrict its use of the "facility" label.

The House passed the bill in June. The Senate has not yet taken action on the legislation.

State Sen. Michael J. Goschka, a Brant Township Republican, and state Rep. John A. Moolenaar, a Midland Republican, sponsored the legislation. The bill would prevent the state from declaring any land a "facility" no matter what the contaminant was, without on-site testing.

Goschka said county commissioners' support would give the state legislation momentum.

"It will be very helpful because it will send a clear message to my colleagues on the Democratic side (of) the Senate that it is OK to vote for this resolution," he said.

During the debate before county commissioners, homeowners complained the state slapped the label on land in Saginaw and Midland counties without testing to back it up, causing property values to plummet. Opponents said the legislation would delay the cleanup of dioxin contamination, allow Midland-based Dow Chemical Co. to sidestep responsibility and permit homeowners to opt out of soil testing.

Goschka said the bill requires the DEQ to get homeowners' permission to test unless the state agency has "a substantial reason for concern."

"There has to be a legitimate issue of concern," he said. "I really believe there is a balance everyone should feel comfortable with."

County Board of Commissioners Chairman Todd M. Hare, a Saginaw Democrat who joined the majority, said it was a question of protecting property rights from state intrusion.

Tim Novak, a Zilwaukee Democrat, argued the bills give false hope they would raise property values. The legislation, he added, "is delaying cleanup plans."

The final vote angered Howard Steinmetz, a Saginaw Township resident who lives on the Tittabawassee River and suspects dioxin has caused him to have cancer and created other health problems for his family.

"It's a travesty of justice as far as I'm concerned," he said. "It's a travesty because they're not familiar with what dioxin does."

Leonard Heinzman, a member of Tittabawassee River Voice, a citizens group that opposes the label, said the term "facility" shows a "misguided approach."

"To tarnish the image of this area ... should be reprehensible no matter where you stand on this issue," he said. v

For additional articles like this one, go to the Tittabawassee River Watch web site 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.