DEQ is working to clean up the dioxin

The Free Press recently wrote about a confidential U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) memorandum on dioxin contamination associated with the Midland operations of the Dow Chemical Co. Unfortunately, the EPA memo grossly misrepresents the efforts of the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) to address this complex problem and ensure this cleanup is a success.

In the past four years, under the DEQ's direction, Dow has been required to gather more data and implement more cleanup activities than in the previous 20 years when Dow was subject to EPA oversight.

DEQ-driven actions to compel cleanup of the dioxin include:

More than 300 homes in Midland and along the Tittabawassee River have had interior cleaning and/or extensive yard work done to reduce exposure to dioxin.

Over 10,000 soil and sediment samples from the Tittabawassee and Saginaw Rivers have been collected and analyzed for contamination, and over 200 samples have been taken in Midland. During the time EPA had oversight of this process, fewer than 55 locations were sampled in Midland and no river samples were taken.

Over 18 miles of the Tittabawassee River have been identified as contaminated, resulting in over 60,000 cubic yards of contaminated sediments being removed.

In 2006, the DEQ fined Dow almost $70,000 for failing to notify and timely provide sampling data.

What motivated EPA to write its inflammatory memo is unclear. It would have been preferable, and certainly more helpful, for them to have discussed their concerns directly with the DEQ.

It is understandable that some area residents are frustrated with the pace of the cleanup. That is precisely why the DEQ has worked to make sure that the delays that occurred prior to our involvement do not continue under our watch and why we are committed to resolving this once and for all.

Steven Chester
Director, Michigan Department of Environmental Quality

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