Dow official: No plans to offer Saginaw and Tittabawassee riverside homeowners same property purchase deal offered in Midland
Published: Friday, February 17, 2012, 7:25 AM  Justin Engel | jengel1@mlive.com

MIDLAND – Dow Chemical Co. officials say there are no plans to include residents living along the Tittabawassee and Saginaw rivers in a plan to buy or clean up properties near dioxin-contaminated soil.

The Midland chemical company on Thursday announced they would offer to buy 50 Midland properties while also offering to test soil for high levels of dioxin at an additional 1,450 properties surrounding those 50 properties. Properties where soil registers above 250 parts per trillion – a measurement used to determine dioxin contamination levels – would have the contaminated soil removed and replaced by Dow-hired crews.

The properties designated don't include Saginaw and Midland county homes alongside the rivers, where Dow-hired scientists over the years have discovered high levels of dioxin downstream from a Dow plant.

In 2007, a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency official said a soil sample taken from a riverbed near Saginaw's Wickes Park registered the highest level of contamination – 1.6 million parts per trillion – ever discovered in the nation's waterways.

Dow spokeswoman Mary Draves said because two different environment agencies deal with the region's dioxin contamination – the state Department of Environmental Quality works with Midland property while the EPA deals with properties along the connected rivers that snake through Midland and Saginaw – the proposal to buy or clean up properties doesn't include the riverside homes.

“The river and the city of Midland are completely different,” Draves said. “In this case, we're working with the DEQ on a very site-specific criteria. The contamination there is from air deposition and historic incineration (likely from Dow facilities).”

Draves said the riverside properties' contamination is “much more complex,” involving sediment in the river.

Michelle Hurd-Riddick, a member of the Great Lakes Bay-based environmental group The Lone Tree Council, on Thursday said she wished the offer extended to riverside properties.

Dow has funded studies of soil downstream from the Midland plant for years. Several designated areas have contained dioxin levels high enough that Dow funded clean-up efforts along the river, including dredging efforts at the Wickes Park find.

As part of a state operating permit, Dow is required to oversee and fund the examination and clean up of land contaminated by dioxin. In 2006, Dow funded a $15 million University of Michigan-led dioxin probe that found little relationship between dioxin levels in the human bloodstream and people living near the river system.

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