Tough Sister Act
Once again the Sisters of Mercy carry a resolution to
the shareholders of Dow Chemical insisting the chemical giant be
transparent and forthcoming. Stay tuned for VOTE #4 from the Dow Chemical
Annual General Meeting tomorrow. Last year the Sisters of Mercy resolution
carried an unprecedented 23% of the shareholders on their resolution.
An Important Message for Dow Chemical Shareholders
From Sisters of Mercy, Regional Community of Detroit Charitable Trust
Vote FOR Agenda Item #4 on the Dow Chemical Proxy:
Report on Environmental Remediation in Midland Area
Dear Fellow Dow Chemical Shareholder,
We are writing to urge you to vote in favor of Proposal # 4 on the proxy
The proposal asks our company to issue a report to shareholders summarizing
pace and effectiveness of the environmental remediation process being
by Dow in the vicinity of and downstream from its Midland headquarters. In
opinion, this report requires a fundamentally different approach from the
communications the company has engaged in to date - one which would allow
shareholders to better understand the long term financial risks the
is taking by its current remedial approaches, which have been characterized
regulators as too slow and too inadequate to the public health and
Our resolution focuses on the impact of Dow's own contamination of its local
environment, stretching more than 50 miles through two river systems to the
Saginaw Bay of Lake Huron, making it one of the largest contamination sites
the nation. In the Saginaw River downstream of Dow Chemical's Midland plant,
dioxin levels have been measured above 1.6 million parts per trillion, the
highest levels in the Great Lakes region. By contrast, the residential
standard in Michigan of 90 parts per trillion. Thousands of acres of
properties, which include, homes, yards, parks and wildlife refuge areas are
subject to frequent high water events which deposit contaminated sediments
people live and recreate.
The levels of public health concern are serious, despite Dow Chemical's
to portray them as trivial. Residents living in contaminated areas have been
advised to by the state of Michigan to:
o avoid having children play in soils known or suspected to contain
levels of chemical contaminants and discourage them from eating dirt or
putting toys or other objects in their mouths;
o consider wearing a face mask in dusty conditions, and
o wash all exposed body surfaces, preferably by showering, as soon as
possible after gardening.
While this issue had been a state-managed issue, in 2007 the US
Protection Agency (EPA) intervened because of its concerns about the high
of dioxins found in the sediments and the risks associated with contaminant
migration. EPA issued consent orders requiring immediate action to remove
hazardous sediments from areas with some of the highest dioxin
and required Dow to take certain actions regarding the downstream migration
contaminants to Lake Huron. But these actions are only a tiny fraction of
actions likely to be required of Dow Chemical to abate the problems our
has created in the region.
The EPA has charged Dow with delaying cleanup of downstream waterways, and
significant and repeated deficiencies, beginning in 2003, in the company's
state-mandated work plans. An EPA comment document, dated June 7, 2007,
the company with impeding progress on cleanup because, according to the EPA,
o Not providing detailed implementation schedules to make progress;
o Pursuing fundamentally flawed studies that are inconsistent with
federal guidance and of limited value;
o Failing in scope and timing of its workplans to adequately address
migration of contaminated sediments into Saginaw Bay to reduce the
potential health risk associated with the consumption of
fish and game in the watershed;
o Generating a "pattern" of "missed deadlines and the submittal of
incomplete corrective action documents;"
o Improperly applying confidential status to otherwise public data;
o Failing to report environmental monitoring data.
In our opinion, Dow's statement of opposition to the shareholder resolution
quite misleading, and does not respond to fundamental shareholder and
concerns regarding the contamination. Dow asserts that the proponents'
conclusions are taken out of context and that exposure levels "fall within
range of preliminary estimated background levels for people with no known
exposure to dioxins...beyond background." The company fails to note that
"background" ranges are very wide, with some people at very elevated levels.
Falling at the top end of this range still means elevated potential risks to
It appears to the proponents that the company's position is that it is
acceptable for people living on contaminated property to have higher levels
these toxic compounds in their bodies.
The company cites the University of Michigan study in its opposition
but neglects some of its key points. The UM study found: "In the
River floodplain near Dow...people had 28 percent higher median levels of
dioxin-like chemicals in their blood than people in a control group in
and Calhoun counties. Dioxins are toxic chemicals." It further found: "Some
the increase was associated with eating certain foods such as fish from
waters contaminated by Dow and other sources, engaging in recreational
activities on or near contaminated waters, or having worked at the Dow plant
from 1940 to 1959."
"A small portion of the increase was related to living on soil contaminated
Dow." The University of Michigan study also found:"Factors associated with
higher levels of dioxin in people's blood" include living on property
contaminated by dioxin and/or eating fish or wild game from the
Saginaw rivers and Saginaw Bay. (pg 10 Findings of the UM Dioxin Exposure
Dow's opposition statement also focuses on a single fish species, Walleye, a
sport fish, to minimize health concerns, seemingly ignoring the seriousness
the advisories for women of childbearing age and children, many that rely on
range of fish to subsist.
In our opinion, this response by management is deliberately misleading and
inadequate - most inappropriate in light of Dow's promotion of global water
stewardship and its Human Element ad campaign.
From the shareholders' perspective, the management's opposition statement
reinforces our assessment that the management needs to reassess and report
its financial statements the risks to the company including the costs and
potential liabilities of continued delay in remediating the contamination,
company's potential reputation damage as a result of cleanup delays, and
ability to locate new facilities among other potential costs.
The management's unresponsive defense of clean-up actions also demonstrates
us that more detailed review of the company's remedial strategy is needed by
management and the Board of Directors with transparency for the
The company argues that the existing planning processes with the government
the only processes that can answer the questions posed by the resolution,
refers interested shareholders to the Internet to see the vast
moving between the company and government agencies. A summary report for
shareholders would, in the proponents' opinion, be far more helpful to
shareholders than the suggestion that they wade through thousands of pages
The report requested by Agenda Item Number Four, in part, would begin to
some of the substantial questions raised by the management's opposition
statement in a form more useful to shareholders, as the resolution states,
"summarizing the pace and effectiveness of the environmental remediation
being undertaken by Dow in the vicinity of and downstream from its Midland
headquarters." For instance, it is reasonable, appropriate and necessary for
shareholders to know:
o What is the company's remediation strategy?
o What are the overall public health and ecosystem impacts of the
o What are the overall goals of the company's remediation strategy?
o How effective are the company's preferred methods at removing
from waterways, floodplains and the food chain?
o How many additional hotspots is the company likely to be asked to
remediate in the near term?
Vote yes on the Dow Chemical proxy, Agenda Item Number 4, to urge better
transparency of our company's efforts and challenges toward environmental
remediation in the Midland, Michigan area.
This communication is not a proxy solicitation, and the Sisters of Mercy,
Regional Community of Detroit Charitable Trust will not accept any proxies.
urge shareholders to vote "FOR" this stockholder proposal, Agenda Item 4 on
Chemical Company management's proxy.
Michelle Hurd Riddick
Lone Tree Council
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.