Lone Tree Council and TRW

Dioxin Update

April 21, 2008 #118


"The Corps is an agency that likes projects, no matter what they do to the environment. Give them a dollar and they'll push it any way you want."
                          ---Rep. Jack Kingston (R-GA) [Washington Post, 9/14/00]




Several news stories and yesterday's Saginaw News editorial have addressed recent activities surrounding the navigational dredge site on the Saginaw River highlighting the riff between the DEQ and Corp of Engineers. The SN editorial comment, suggests taxpayers and residents trust the Corp of Engineers’ expertise on the dredge site------ that would be the same agency that constructed and hailed the levees of New Orleans as state of the art. http://www.mlive.com/saginawnews/opinion/index.ssf/2008/04/editorial_dredging_delays_hurt.html


Read the Saginaw News' glowing comments about the Corp of Engineers then visit the Corp Reform Network www.corpsreform.org  to read the Corp Reform legislation sponsored Senators Feingold and McCain to reign in this rogue federal agency that answers to know one. You can also read about dozens and dozens of run amok Corp projects across this nation.  


This dredge site does not exist in a vacuum. It is not just about jobs. Context matters.  Substantive but ignored and overlooked in much of the media coverage are the following issues of magnitude:



These issues matter for the long-term integrity of the watershed, river and people living there.  They matter to the taxpayers of Saginaw County unless of course we are to believe the Corp will bail us out of any future financial liability should this site flood, leak or concentrate dioxin levels over time which would require special and expensive handling.  The Saginaw River and Bay are on the federal Area of Concern, the only site with that designation on the US side of Lake Huron. I would suggest that many of the impairments, which have garnered us this sordid designation, were the result of poor planning, myopic vision and a lack of understanding how this dynamic eco-system operates and flippant disregard for environmental legislation and safeguards.


It  matters that the federal government believes the Saginaw Bay Watershed to be one of the most contaminated in the nation. It should be everyone’s objective, no exceptions, to take steps to mitigate and prevent further injury to residents, groundwater, surface waters and wildlife resources via exposures to these high levels of dioxin and other contaminants. This isn't just about the need to dredge the river it is also about how to safely contain toxic river dredgings materials, how to prevent groundwater contamination and how water from the site will be discharged back to the river in accordance with the Clean Water Act. ( a question nobody's talking about) It's about being on the correct path to detoxing this watershed from years of abuse and stupid decisions.


The Corp was issued a 401 certificate under the Clean Water Act ---that permit was predicated on the Corp and Saginaw County doing “betterments” which included  containing sediments and groundwater monitoring.  Jim Koski, Saginaw County, pulled the groundwater permits and the Corp of Engineers say a slurry wall to contain contaminated sediments is no longer needed, even though for the past two years these betterments were part of their repertoire for why this site was state of the art. The DEQ would have every right to pull their 401 certificate issued under the Clean Water Act--- laws matter. Protecting the Great Lakes resources matter.  It’s unfortunate that efforts to restore this watershed and provide protection from the contaminated sediments of the Saginaw River are not priorities for Mr. Koski or the Corp………….however, this luxury they have granted themselves does nothing to absolve taxpayer liability or insulate the county from future lawsuits or environmental degradations.


Backing away from their “betterments”, the site according to the Corp is still the safest one they've ever built.  In past local news editorials, residents and environmentalists alike have been admonished for seeking recourse in the courts because all the steps and permits to make this site state of the art would be in place. Now they're not going to be in place and we are still told the site is safe. One has to wonder if Mr. Koski and the Corp have gone along with the “betterments”concept  until the court cases were settled… just BS the judge until we get out of court.


Like many ill planned Corp of Engineers projects this site was not properly funded from the beginning. The cart was put before the horse.  There was never enough money to do this project correctly given its location to the river, to residents, the site geology and the levels of contamination in the river.


It is also not a coincidence that the slurry wall and the groundwater permit were abandoned after Dow Chemical withdrew support on this project. Last fall, in a letter to Lone Tree Council, Dow Chemical stated there were no commitments made on their part to provide any additional funding pending a comprehensive understanding of what might be required in terms of "betterments” and a clear understanding of the company’s ability to use the facility were those betterments accounted for. There is no money and never has been to do this site properly. Strapped for money the county cannot even afford to test the wells of residents living next door to this slurry pit let alone fund the testing needed down the road to monitor this site...what were they thinking.


At public hearings in 2004, Lone Tree Council and residents asked for this site to be moved upland, away from the river floodway. We asked for all stakeholders to be at the table to discuss how to do navigational dredging and cleanup. MDEQ, the Corp of Engineers and Jim Koski dismissed our inquiry and suggestions, insisting this site was not about dioxin or Dow but about navigational dredging. But the dioxins have always been the wildcard that skews everything. The wildcard which made proper citing, stringent permitting, long-term containment, wildlife protection and public health an integral part of the dredge project.


This site has no business being located where it is. Please remember there are dozens of families living in the shadow of this slurry pit that deserve to be defended and recognized every bit as rigorously as the dock owners, Corp or Jim Koski. 


Much more on this issue very soon. We hope to share with you some of the statements the Corp of Engineers and Saginaw County made to Federal District Court, Bay City Circuit Court and in depositions. The public is being taken for ride on this slurry pit.......




Michelle Hurd Riddick

Lone Tree Council


 Some  favorite quotes about Corp of Engineers:



Source: Lone Tree Council / TRW

For additional articles like this one, go to the Tittabawassee River Watch web site www.trwnews.net. for complete coverage of the Tittabawassee River Dow Chemical dioxin contamination saga.. The source organization's web site link is listed above. The Newspaper / Media page of our site contains an extensive archive of media articles dating back to January 2002. The Newspaper / Media page may be accessed by scrolling down to the bottom of the CONTENTS section and clicking on the Newspaper/Media link.