EPA offers many solutions for Tittabawassee River cleanup next to Dow Chemical's Midland plant
 Published: Monday, July 18, 2011, 9:30 PM Updated: Tuesday, July 19, 2011, 8:07 AM
By Lindsay Knake | The Saginaw News

KOCHVILLE TWP. -- The Environmental Protection Agency is developing a plan to clean up the Tittabawassee River adjacent to the Dow Chemical Co.'s Midland plant.

EPA officials presented information about the cleanup in the 3-mile river section at Monday's Saginaw-Tittabawassee Rivers Contamination Community Advisory Group meeting at Saginaw Valley State University, 7400 Bay in Kochville Township.

While dioxins and furans are not a major chemical in that area of the river, known chemicals in the river segment include arsenic, tar-like substances, chlorobenzenes and chlorophenols, said Mary Logan, EPA project manager. The chemicals could cause harm to fish and small invertebrates.

The chemicals entered the Tittabawassee River as a result of Dow's past discharges to the river from pipes and drains, and surface water runoff and groundwater from the plant. The chemical giant has waste management systems in place to protect the river, Logan said.

The EPA and Dow have already addressed dioxin contamination in that area.

On both sides of that stretch of the river there is no residential property, Logan said.

Cleanup options include capping, or placing clean material over contaminated areas to contain them; isolating containment with sheet pile walls; removing non-water-soluble organic liquids containing chemicals from the river; dredging; hydraulic control and treatment, or capturing water near contaminants and treating it; or monitored natural recovery, letting natural processes reduce contaminant levels.

The options are highly nuanced, Logan said, and all present their own advantages and disadvantages.

Dredging, for example, removes the chemicals but can cause them to resurface, presenting the issue of safely disposing of the contaminated sediment, Logan said.

"Mass removal does not necessarily equate to risk reduction," she said.

The price of cleanup ranges from $30,000 to more than $5 million for the six sites within the river segment.

The EPA does not know the size of each area that has contaminants, she said.

"We have additional work we need to do," Logan said. "We have thousands of samples from hundreds of sites."

Different areas of the river have varying levels and types of chemicals. The EPA has varying cleanup options for each area. Logan said next week a presentation of the options in more detail will be on the EPA's website, epa.gov/Region5/cleanup/dowchemical.

The EPA has not yet identified its preferred cleanup option but will present the option at the August advisory group meeting. Logan said there will be a comment period to seek public input on the cleanup.

"Capping sounded reasonable," said former Midland Mayor R. Drummond Black after the advisory members broke up into small groups to discuss the options. "We were skeptical about the dredging because of the mess."

Other members expressed concern about not having the technical expertise to recommend a cleanup option.

"First, do no harm," said advisory group co-chairwoman Wendy Kanar, a Midland resident and attorney.

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