Dioxin meeting Tuesday

Monday, June 23, 2003

ANDY GRIMM
THE SAGINAW NEWS

State officials will outline plans Tuesday for dioxin testing in Midland and along the Tittabawassee and Saginaw rivers and in Saginaw Bay.

The public meeting begins at 7 p.m. in the auditorium at Freeland High School, 8250 Webster.

Representatives from the state departments of Environmental Quality, Community Health, and Agriculture will present information from dioxin testing and the approved hazardous waste facility operating permit for Dow Chemical Co.'s Midland complex.

Dioxin is a byproduct of numerous industrial processes. Science has linked dioxin exposure to cancer and other serious illnesses.

Under terms of the permit, Dow has until early August to present a plan to test for levels of the chemical around the Midland complex and in the Tittabawassee flood plain.

DEQ staffers will develop plans to test for dioxin in soil -- and in residents-- along the Saginaw River and Bay.

State officials believe floodwater has carried dioxin from Dow onto soil along a 22-mile stretch of the Tittabawassee. Concentrations in some portions of the flood plain are 80 times the level that may trigger a cleanup.

Sediment the Army Corps of Engineers sampled had high levels of dioxin in the Saginaw River and Bay, but Dow spokeswoman Sarah Opperman said company officials were "very disappointed" the permit holds them responsible for the bodies of water.

"The Saginaw River and Bay are clearly regional issues" as hundreds of industrial users have discharged waste into the river during the past 100 years, she said.

Environmental officials will also discuss plans for additional soil tests along the Tittabawassee. Recent sampling in Freeland Festival Park found high concentrations of dioxin as deep as five feet beneath the surface.

Dioxin levels increase at each depth up to about three feet, then drop, said Brenda Brouillet, DEQ district supervisor.

"That does tell you (dioxin deposition) has been going on a long time," she said, "but it's still an ongoing problem, because it's still at the surface."

The permit also will let Dow shut down two decades-old waste incinerators and fire up a new 10-story $83 million furnace. t

Andy Grimm is a staff writer for The Saginaw News. Call him at 776-9688.