EPA island dioxin cleanup project could be complicated by erosion

By Tony Lascari Midland Daily News Posted: Saturday, April 30, 2011 7:00 am

Owners of land near an island contaminated with dioxin learned more about a cleanup project being proposed by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency during a meeting Thursday night.

Among the concerns they shared — the island is eroding faster than the agency realizes and could mostly be washed away by the time it starts work later this year.

The island, located about 17 miles south of the confluence of the Tittabawassee and Chippewa rivers, is contaminated with up to 17,500 parts per trillion of dioxin TEQ, which is a toxic equivalency measurement.

Scott Macauley, who has owned land near the island for more than 30 years, said it has begun eroding faster in recent years and could be gone in a couple years.

“By the time you get around to doing it, you just wasted a lot of money and effort,” he said, noting the time and money could be put to use in other areas of the river that need to be addressed.

The EPA is proposing to removing soil above the water level and use in-place containment with caps in underwater areas. They would also place material to promote the restoration of the island. The estimated cost is $500,000. The EPA selected this option over two others based on the effectiveness, implementability and cost.

Mary Logan, EPA remedial project manager, said it is important to address the island because as it erodes, it has the potential to spread highly contaminated sediment further down the river.

She acknowledged some conditions may have changed since sampling took place on the island four years ago, but additional sampling was completed last year that found levels at 6,800 ppt near the exposed face of the island.

“Those are considerably higher than we’re seeing in a lot of the sediment,” Logan said.

The early action is being taken while other investigations continue, Logan said. The EPA is taking a three-part approach by looking at properties along the rivers to determine if contamination is on high use properties, using early control methods where significant contaminant movement is possible and starting investigations for a long-term, segment-by-segment comprehensive cleanup that will start in Midland and move down the river.

The work on the island, known as Island MM, is expected to take place this year.

“It is not a final decision until we hear public comments and respond to public comments,” Logan said of the selection of remedies. “We can change the project based on what we hear from the public.”

Al Taylor, with the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality, said the state is in “general agreement” with the EPA’s proposed alternative but a number of things need to be clarified with more data and modeling.

Taylor said the proposed cleanup is a very small project in the scope of a very large project.

“I think it’s important to keep the eye on the ball for moving the project through on a segment-by-segment basis,” Taylor said.

Taylor said a third alternative for the island, complete removal of contamination, seems more appropriate for an overall action, but the state recognizes it can be address again in the future.

“This is an early action,” Taylor said. “It’s important to keep a focus on that because we will be revisiting this as we move down the river.”

The Dow Chemical Co., which is responsible for the dioxin contamination in the Tittabawassee River, has paid for the sampling and would be expected to pay for the work done in the river as laid out in the company’s agreement with the EPA.

“We follow their process,” Dow spokeswoman Mary Draves said. “We’re focused on implementing the agreement.”

Seija Smith, who lives near the island, said it’s a lot of money to spend on something that’s going to be gone soon, but she does want to see a fix to stop the spread of the contamination.

Brady Steckert, who said he’s fished the river for 22 years has seen changes through flooding and erosion. His land had some remedial actions occur when bare spots near the river were covered, but it washed away, he said.

“Every time it’s flooded I’ve seen the banks erode,” he said. “There’s more sediment and deposits every time it floods.”

He hopes a final solution can take place to bring an end to the issue.

“I don’t know how much longer you can study this thing without doing something about it,” he said.

As the project starts with the first segment near Dow’s plant in Midland, the EPA will gather more input.

“We really want to put our focus on putting that first three mile proposal out to the public and move forward with that,” said Logan, with the EPA.

In the meantime, the EPA will accept written public comments on the Island MM cleanup plans through May 22. They can be faxed to Patricia Krause at (312) 697-2568 or submitted online at www.epa.gov/region5/publiccomment/dowchemical-pubcomment.htm . Comments also can be mailed to Patricia Krause, community involvement coordinator, Superfund Division (SI-7J), EPA Region 5, 77 W. Jackson Blvd., Chicago, IL 60604-3590.

To view more information about the site and proposed project, visit:  www.epa.gov/region5/sites/dowchemical.
 

http://www.ourmidland.com/news/article_9d912f16-72e1-11e0-99db-001cc4c002e0.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.