EPA seeks input on interim dioxin cleanup goals
By Tony Lascari firstname.lastname@example.org
Published: Friday, January 1, 2010 11:06 AM EST
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency on Thursday released interim dioxin cleanup goals for soil that would tighten the goals for contaminated sites across the country.
The preliminary remediation goals proposed are 72 parts per trillion of dioxin for residential land uses and 950 ppt for commercial and industrial land uses. That would lower the allowed levels from 1,000 ppt for residential soil and a range from 5,000-20,000 ppt in commercial and industrial soil.
The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality considers 90 ppt safe for residential properties, and the figures vary widely across the United States. The EPA's new interim levels were developed using estimates for the toxicity of dioxin and generic exposure assumptions, such as the how frequently people come in contact with the chemical.
The process of setting new goals has interested some mid-Michigan residents because of the ongoing dioxin cleanup effort involving The Dow Chemical Co. in the Tittabawassee River, Saginaw River and Saginaw Bay. Some soil in residential areas along the river exceed the 72 ppt and 90 ppt levels. Some areas with soil levels about 1,000 ppt have seen cleanup action in recent years.
According to the EPA, the preliminary remediation goals are not meant to act as site-specific cleanup levels but as initial guidelines for use in deciding the scope of characterizing pollution and cleanup options.
Dow has signed a proposed agreement with the EPA and MDEQ on a framework to move forward with investigating the contaminated sites in local rivers, and the EPA is processing public comments on the plan.
"We can't speculate what this is going to mean in the future, but it doesn't have an impact on the proposed agreement," Dow spokeswoman Mary Draves said of the EPA's draft interim goals. "The agreement focuses on the investigation and design of possible remedies."
U.S. Rep. Dave Camp, R-Midland, called the proposed change in the interim goals "radical" and called for public input.
"This is a radical change in the federal standard and I look forward to hearing from all those who will be impacted by the decisions being made in Washington by the EPA," he said. "I want to ensure that EPA hears loud and clear from the residents of Midland and the surrounding areas their thoughts and concerns about this preliminary finding before any decision is finalized."
Local environmentalists praised the move, with Michelle Hurd Riddick of the Lone Tree Council calling it a "wonderful New Year's present."
"We knew if the science and not the politics was properly evaluated, the EPA would come back lower than Michigan's 90 ppt for dioxin in residential soils," she said. "The EPA numbers are far more protective of human health, and we would like to personally thank (EPA Administrator) Lisa Jackson for doing what no other EPA administrator has done - apply the science, look at public health and do what is right for communities and their natural resources."
Lone Tree chairman Terry Miller was pleased with the news after what he called a "disappointing" decision from the state on coal plant approvals. "Hopefully fewer people will be exposed to dioxin, and our valley can begin the process of a long overdue cleanup and began to heal," he said.
The EPA also is working to complete a dioxin risk assessment that has been under review for years. The goal is to have the assessment finished by the end of 2010. When it's finished, the EPA will use it as its scientific foundation for future decision-making about dioxins in the environment.
Mathy Stanislaus, assistant administrator for EPA's Office of Solid Waste and Emergency Response, said while work on the reassessment continues, the interim guidance will help the EPA make more informed decisions on cleanup alternatives at contaminated sites.
"We are following through on our commitment to use the best available science to help protect human health and the environment," he said.
American Chemistry Council Vice President for Chemical Products and Technology Rob Simon questioned the need for the interim goals, considering the dioxin reassessment should be complete by the end of the year. Simon said government and industry efforts have reduced dioxin levels and he cited studies that show there is little to no link between dioxin soil levels and the levels in human blood.
"ACC believes it is appropriate for EPA to ensure that dioxin health risk is assessed as accurately as possible taking into account the success of efforts already under way and regulated accordingly," Simon said. "To that end, we support EPA's efforts to finalize the dioxin reassessment consistent with the best available science to inform its policy decisions and the recommendations it received from the National Academy of Sciences, one of the nation's preeminent scientific bodies. That has not yet been done."
According to the EPA, dioxins may cause a large number of different health effects, including cancer and reproductive effects. The draft interim goals consider the potential absorption of dioxin through skin exposure, which the EPA said provides a tool for site evaluation that was not available when previous goals were set.
The EPA will take public comments on the draft interim goals for 50 days following publication in the Federal Register. After comments are processed, the EPA anticipates issuing the final interim goals in June.
For more information on how to comment, visit www.epa.gov/superfund/policy/remedy/sfremedy/remedies/dioxinsoil.html
For additional articles like this one, go to the Tittabawassee River Watch web site www.trwnews.net 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.