For years the Midland community and those surrounding it have wondered how – or if – their chemical-producing neighbor has affected the health of the people and animals that live nearby. They’re about to find out.
The Dow Chemical Co. has a plan in place to address concerns about dioxin, a chemical manufacturing byproduct that has been detected in high levels in soil in and around Midland, mostly along waterways.
As part of the requirement for its recently state-issued hazardous waste facility operating license, Dow has submitted two "Scopes of Work" plans to the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality. It says the plans for action will help resolve matters associated with contamination it acknowledges was inflicted on rivers and soils in the past by chemical manufacturing processes.
"The comprehensive work plan includes long-term actions and research needed to understand the nature and extent of dioxin in the area," said Susan Carrington, sustainable development director for Dow’s Michigan Operations. "The residents want answers, so let’s get them and do it right."
Much of the worrisome dioxin was emitted from Dow in the early 1900s. Since, emission levels have decreased to nearly zero, and the newly-issued license will allow the starting up of an $82 million incinerator that is expected to decrease pollution even more.
Plans in the scope of work will address dioxin along the Tittabawassee River and in Midland soil. Carrington acknowledges that in the past contamination along the entire path of the river has not been thoroughly addressed.
As part of the new effort, Dow, with the help of state agencies, will conduct studies on people and animals to determine dioxin exposure, and to perform further soil sampling to determine the extent and location of contamination. A map of the river’s floodplain with property boundaries and land uses, the development of public information materials and a community information center also are planned.
Dow will be required to seek public input on the plans, which will be considered by the DEQ before approval.
If the DEQ accepts Dow’s proposed "scopes of work," this is the path of action that will be taken to address dioxin contamination.
Plans for immediate action include:
• Further soil sampling at Freeland Festival Park, Immerman Memorial Park, and West Michigan Park, which have high levels of dioxin in soil, according to MDEQ testing. Handwash stations also might be installed and playground areas and pathways covered.
• A preliminary evaluation of area wild game will be performed.
• Dow will consult with residents of Riverside Boulevard, one place where high levels of dioxin were reported by the DEQ, and offer to conduct soil and blood sampling.
• Dow will prepare a map of the Tittabawassee River Floodplain property, including its boundaries and land uses.
• Dow will establish a community information center for the public to review information and better understand what is known about contamination, what is being done to correct it and how they can limit their exposure.
In the long term:
• Dow plans to evaluate the sources of dioxin, identify pathways of exposure and conduct human health and ecological risk assessments.
• Conduct a study to determine uptake of dioxins in vegetable and fruit crops.
• Evaluate potential inhalation exposure pathways and direct-skin contact exposure to determine absorption rates of dioxin from sediments and soils.