Dioxin clean-up citizens advisory group looks to better engage citizens

By Justin L. Engel | The Saginaw News May 18, 2010, 9:38AM

KOCHVILLE TWP. — A citizens group involved in oversight of dioxin pollution cleanup of the Saginaw River, Tittabawassee River and Saginaw Bay is designing a game plan to better engage the public.

The group known as the Saginaw-Tittabawassee Rivers Contamination Community Advisory Group met Tuesday at Saginaw Valley State University. Its purpose is to share information and advise state and federal regulators regarding cleanup of dioxin found in the three waterways from historic industrial practices, including those by Midland-based Dow Chemical Co.

Environmental Protection Agency official Don de Blasio outlined preliminary plans to make the advisory group’s findings accessible to the public.

“It’s our way of making sure the community is informed,” said de Blasio, who works at the EPA’s Region 5 offices in Chicago. “We don’t want to sit back in Chicago and try to figure out what is the best way to talk to you. We are hoping (the advisory group) will take it out and become the voice of those you represent.”

About 15 members of the group — made up of more than 20 Midland, Saginaw and Bay county residents, business leaders and environmental activists — attended Monday’s gathering along with 10 audience members.

De Blasio said the EPA planned to draft a “community involvement plan” for members to review and potentially adopt at their next meeting on June 21. He said the organization could inform residents by approaching the media and posting information online.

“There’s a lot of people that don’t know what’s going on,” Saginaw County Commissioner Judith Lincoln, a member of the group. “Then there is a small group out there that does know.”

Michelle Hurd Riddick, a member both of the advisory group and of the local environmental watchdog group The Lone Tree Council, said the advisory team should favor publishing information about dioxin cleanup rather than details about the group itself.

SVSU Associate Vice President for Academic Affairs Deborah Huntley, a group member, said the challenge will be in “distilling and filtering” the information.

“We have to make it into something that is digestible,” Huntley said.

The advisory team was formed in November 2009 to help represent the interests of affected communities. The Citizens Advisory Group meetings are held the third Monday of the month and are open to the public.
 


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