EPA approves landscaping as dioxin solution

By Eartha Jane Melzer, The Michigan Messenger | 06.03.11 | 11:02 am

The U.S. Environmental Protection agency has signed an agreement with Dow Chemical that allows the company to deal with dioxin contamination in parks and yards by covering it with gravel and building raised garden beds.

Dow Chemical is responsible for a highly toxic plume of dioxin contamination that stretches from Midland, through the Tittabawassee and Saginaw Rivers and into Lake Huron.

Though the contamination has been documented for decades federal regulators have not yet finalized a plan for long term cleanup of the pollution (or even established the scope of the contamination in Lake Huron).

On Thursday EPA announced:

EPA and Dow Chemical Co. signed a legal agreement May 26, 2011 requiring Dow to carry out EPA’s interim plan that is intended to limit human exposure to dioxin and furan contamination along the Tittabawassee River. EPA’s selected plan calls for placing barriers such as ground cover over flood plain soil and moving or raising eligible land-use features such as gardens and recreation areas. EPA will oversee the work to make sure that the barriers remain effective. After careful review and consideration of public comments that were submitted about the interim plan, EPA decided to proceed with its original recommendations. The plan is aimed at areas that flood frequently, contain bare soil and are used by people. Since 2010, EPA has been evaluating properties in areas called Exposure Units or EUs. The signed plan will provide controls to limit people’s contact while a final cleanup plan is developed for floodplain soil.

Hundreds of people live on the contaminated floodplain and many hoped that EPA’s plan would include support for them to move to safer areas.

Saginaw County Medical Director Dr. Neill Varner told Michigan Messenger that the plan to install barriers around homes in the floodplain might not protect child who play in dirt and grass and put their fingers in their mouths.

“Since EPA’s take over of Dow’s dioxin contamination, I find myself at a loss to find one instance where EPA acted on any recommendation from the public (good or bad) based on public comment,” said Michelle Hurd Riddick of the Lone Tree Council.

When EPA took over responsibility for enforcing cleanup of the floodplain in 2009 the agency called the dioxin contamination a threat to public health and promised swift action.

Interim cleanup actions were required at Saginaw township’s West Michigan Park in 2009 after tests showed contamination at six times the maximum allowable level.

Flooding this April is suspected to have redeposited dioxin-laden sediments on the park. EPA has ordered soil samples from the park and expects results in June. In the meantime, the park remains open to the public.

Showing 1 comment
Neill D varner1 day ago

As part of its control plan, the EPA will most likely include some general recommendations on land use following "relandscaping".....those recommendations may include ones that address the risk to children mentioned above...such as avoidance, hand washing, etc. AS to Ms Hurd-Riddick's remarks, it is not all thart unusual for Records of Decision by the EPA regarding Superfund ( and Alternate Superfund SItes) to be drafted and sent off to MDNRE ( MDEQ) for approval BEFORE the public comment period ends as was most recently done in Traverse City at the Grand Traverse Overall Supply site where public comment period ended in mid January 2011 but the ROD was completed by Richard Karl, Director of Region V Supefund Sites, and approved by Barbara Humphries of MDNRE on November 30, 2010.......all this in spite of an OSWER ( Office of Solid Waste and Emergency Response) directive encouraging public engagement....That ROD was not actually released TO the public until April 2011, so it is conceivable but unlikely that any comments made after November 28 ( the original end of public comment period) may have been considered........the Dioxin saga has been ongoing now for such a long time and the impact of it to the environment is so ubiquitous that most remediation and removal strategies stand defeated and the requirement in the UN endorsed Precautionary Principle for a "cost-effective" approach is challenged.


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.