Detroit News via detnews.com
Thursday, March 27, 2003
Residents sue Dow Chemical
Lawsuit filed by 26 in Saginaw Co. claims firm endangers health
By Liz Austin / Associated Press
MIDLAND -- Twenty-six Saginaw County residents have filed a lawsuit against Dow Chemical Co., saying dioxin contamination caused by its Midland manufacturing plant has threatened their health and left their property worthless.
Dioxins are highly toxic byproducts of manufacturing and incineration systems and may cause cancer, birth defects and other health problems in humans.
The lawsuit, filed Tuesday in Saginaw County Circuit Court, seeks to represent about 2,000 people who have lived along the Tittabawassee River and flood plain since January 1984.
Dow Chemical said it had just learned of the complaint and couldn't respond to specifics. But the company said it has seen no evidence that property values were hurt and adds that it remains committed to the health of the community.
"Dow has been working to understand the concerns of residents along the Tittabawassee River and has been meeting with the community, individually and collectively, for more than a year," the company said in a statement.
In the lawsuit, the residents ask the court to make Dow establish a medical monitoring trust fund for them. The fund would pay for dioxin poisoning testing and treatment, as well as for studies of the toxins' effects and possible cures.
Jan P. Helder Jr., an attorney for the plaintiffs, said such testing is very expensive and is available in just a few places, such as the Atlanta-based Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
"We believe that Dow should bear the burden of that, certainly not innocent bystanders," Helder said Tuesday.
The lawsuit also asks for compensatory and punitive damages to help the plaintiffs move to safer locations.
Given the original values of the properties involved, the compensatory damages alone could add up to more than $100 million dollars if a judge certifies the class of 2,000 plaintiffs, Helder said.
Last year Dow tried to broker a deal with the state Department of Environmental Quality that would have raised allowable dioxin contamination levels nine-fold in Midland. The deal, however, fell apart in December.