10 homes to be cleaned of high levels of dioxin

The yards and insides of 10 homes along the dioxin-plagued Tittabawassee River must be cleaned up after testing showed high levels of the toxin in the soil outside and the dust inside the homes, state and federal environmental agencies said Wednesday.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and state Department of Environmental Quality were meeting with Dow Chemical Co. to determine how the cleanup will proceed. The EPA said it planned to issue an order for an immediate cleanup.

Most, if not all, of the 10 houses already had a simplified cleanup by Dow, the source of the contaminants, in 2005 and 2006, said Bob McCann, spokesman for the DEQ. They were among 230 houses in the river's floodplain where bare soil was covered and carpets and ducts cleaned to minimize possible dioxin contamination.

McCann said the levels of dioxin at the homes in the most recent sampling were as high as 23,000 parts per trillion. The state's cleanup standard for dioxin is 90 parts per trillion.

Dioxin was found in dust inside houses at concentrations into the thousands of parts per trillion, McCann said.

"People are being exposed to levels of dioxin we don't like to see on residential properties," he said.

Studies on animals link dioxins to hormone changes, damaged fetal development, suppressed immune systems, diabetes and cancers, among other problems.

McCann said the latest cleanup, following EPA-forced cleanups of four hot spots found last year in the river, is part of a much larger cleanup of the river. One of the four hot spots showed the highest level of dioxin ever found in the environment.

Dow spokesman John Musser said he did not have details yet on how the cleanup of homes would proceed.

A University of Michigan study indicates that people who live in the affected homes are not in health danger, he said. Some health officials disagree with the study, which was funded by Dow.

The former administrator of the EPA's Region 5, Mary Gade, said she was pushed out of the agency last month because of her work on the Dow dioxin cleanup.

Contact TINA LAM at 313-222-6421 or tlam@freepress.com.

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