Torn From The Front Page: Don't let dioxin debate delay Thomas Township's turn for a boat launch
 By The Saginaw News staff May 27, 2010, 5:03AM

Thomas Township officials are itching to build a nature preserve and boat launch on the site of a former golf course along the Tittabawassee River, just north of the Gratiot Road Bridge.

Just one major hitch, though: dioxin.

The long, debate over what to do about the chemical that Dow admits it released from its Midland plants upstream decades ago has put the kibosh on Thomas Township’s plans to use the river as major recreation resource.

We love the idea of yet another boat launch on the Tittabawassee, and the nature trails that Thomas Township proposes for the property. The township has an option to buy the land for $160,000, the same amount the Saginaw County Road Commission paid for the property as wetlands mitigation during bridge and road work in 2004.

Yet, the Michigan Department of Natural Resources and Environment officials won’t OK those plans or award any grant money for the work as long as the dioxin debate continues along the Tittabawassee.

It seems to us that enough is known about dioxin contamination to begin at least preparing for a boat launch and nature trails.

After years of soil sampling, tests and litigation, Dow officials last year signed a settlement to end the dioxin fight. Now, a community advisory group is examining the settlement. DNRE officials say the dioxin debate is as close to a resolution as ever.

That’s faint reassurance in a public policy debate that has raged back and forth on various aspects of the issue for years. As the issue stands, Dow, state and federal agencies and community factions can’t even reach agreement on the toxicity of dioxin. On one side, environmentalists say it’s a deadly cancer-causing toxic chemical. On the other, Dow says dioxin’s ill effects on humans and the environment may be overblown.

That’s a key point as state and federal regulators look at a process to clean — how to clean, and to what level of dioxin detection — the chemical from the river and its floodplain.

Volumes have been written on this subject.

And yet, the Thomas Township park proposal is forced to wait.

It shouldn’t.

As proposed, the park would involve minimal human contact with the spoil at the site. DNRE officials say the soil there is contaminated with dioxins and furans.

If so, it should be cleaned in the same manner and to the same level as cleanups at other launch sites along the river.

The proposed Thomas Township launch site wouldn’t have a playground — just a boat launch and some foot paths, so it may not need the kind of soil-stripping cleaning that was done last year at West Michigan Park, just downstream.

It’s a sure bet that such a site would be a hit with walleye fishermen who come from far and wide to sink their lines into walleye hotspots like the one right about where the park is proposed.

Walleye fishermen several decades ago started showing us the jewels that we have in our rivers. Word got out about record catches and record-size lunkers. The Saginaw River system, which includes the Tittabawassee, and Saginaw Bay have been on the map of world-class walleye waters ever since.

We’ll never grow tired of that kind of applause for our environment which, frankly, our industrial forefathers treated like an open sewer.

With the dioxin debate drawing to an agreement and a close — someday soon, we hope — there is no reason not to allow communities to get on with their futures.

Let Thomas Township build an access to the watery asset that defines its eastern border.

State officials should grant the township the money it needs to buy the land, work with it to approve its plans, and include the site among those eligible for whatever remediation is deemed necessary.

In recent decades, boat launches have been built at Gordonville Road, just downstream of Dow, Imerman Park, at Center Road and at Freeland Festival Park.

Let Thomas Township have its access to the river, too. Sooner rather than later

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.