Lone Tree Council and TRW

Dioxin Update

March 29th, 2005 # 38


The twentieth century has been characterized by three developments of great political importance: the growth of democracy, the growth of corporate power, and the growth of corporate propaganda as a means of protecting corporate power against democracy...................Alex Carey

DEQ Dow Focus Group Meetings

FOCUS GROUP---Having a hard time seeing the point.

One of the redundant less than clear activities that came out of the closed door meetings between Dow and DEQ are the series of "Focus Group" meetings being held by the regulator and the polluter around the Tri-city area. These focus groups are being convened purportedly to "discuss how we can best inform and involve the broader community in the future", and to entertain questions about the Framework. To that end, Dow and DEQ, created an invitation list, shared their lists with each other and decided who from the public would be invited to these "Focus Groups". How many years into this contamination issue, how many meetings later and Dow and DEQ are using focus groups (again) to identify stakeholders? It gets worse. The meetings, though open to the public, required you to be on the invitation list if you wanted to speak. Imagine needing an invitation to speak at a meeting held by a state agency concerning policy ( Framework) about natural resources ( watershed) that we the people own. It's an all time low.

REINVENTING THE WHEEL---Stop we are all getting dizzy

In March of 2003 DEQ held "focus groups" in an attempt to identify the stakeholders in the Dow Chemical dioxin contamination of our watershed. It was part of what the DEQ called the Tri-county Coordination Plan.( http://www.deq.state.mi.us/documents/deq-rrd-TR-6-17-03DraftTri-CountyProjectCoordinationPlan.pdf) In response to this plan DEQ created the DEQ Community Advisory. This DEQ CAP was made up of a diverse group of people: Dow, Lone Tree council, citizens, DEQ, elected officials, representatives of township, city, state and county governments , media, local health departments, conservation groups, county and twp parks, business, Chamber of Commerce, farmers....... We met from July 2003 until May 2004 in an advisory capacity to DEQ before we were suspended by the Governor while the state met behind closed doors with Dow to formulate policy more palatable to Dow.

No one came to the DEQ CAP, any citizen or public official and asked who should be in attendance at these focus groups or asked if they were even necessary. The decision to not convene the DEQ CAP for a discussion on the Framework before venturing into another participatory venture, with these Focus Groups, is disrespectful of the time and effort invested by DEQ CAP participants. DEQ has held hundreds of public forums over sites of contamination. Community involvement isn't a new concept. Are we really to believe that DEQ doesn't know how to get the message out? Doesn't know who the stakeholders are?

As for Dow? Dow has been so visible in Saginaw County you cannot turn around without getting poked in eye with the corner of a red diamond. Dow has been meeting with citizens, business groups, civic organizations, tribes,legislators, editors, farmers, Farm Bureau, parks officials, elected officials and business leaders to name a few. Dow has held more resident town hall meetings than you can count. Of course, they have all been by "invitation". (should make you nervous that DEQ acquiesced to the invitation idea?) Dow has dozens of Community Groups around the country in every community they pollute. These groups are a staple of Dow's public relations strategy and they are most adept at mobilizing and organizing community groups. They're a Fortune 50 company, replete with the money, PR machine and talented people. Dow imploring the public to "help us get you involved" is as disingenuous as the DEQ asking "who are the stakeholders?"

Dow and DEQ after all these years struggling to identify stakeholders? How to involve the community does not require reinventing the wheel. Frankly, it's not Dow's business to assist in identifying stakeholders. That's the states job. Dow needs to focus on the conditions of their corrective action license. Indeed the whole dynamic has changed as a result of these closed door meetings sanctioned by the Governor. We need to be asking why? We need to ask why Dow is sitting side by side the state in a deferential and privileged seat. The answer lies in those closed door meeting the details of which we will never know.


Dow and DEQ appeal for an inclusive process but deliberately vetting invitation lists with each other to the exclusion of all others is counter productive. The state in a unilateral decision suspended the stakeholders they already convened in the DEQ CAP. Respect for inclusion, transparency and process are important but this administration has shown little respect or regard for the people, taxpayers and owners of the resources in this watershed. Dow and DEQ are the entities with the greatest concentrations of power over this issue. Neither Dow or DEQ are really embracing inclusion, if together they are the only entities to decide what the game plan is and who the players are and when they can play. They are not embracing inclusion if we are subjected to participating on their terms only.

For or against Dow, worried or not worried about health, think dioxin is a big deal or no big deal. Every resident in this watershed is entitled to the same privilege, standing and deference granted Dow Chemical. Because Dow has the money and political influence they can walk right into the fray in Lansing and fight tooth and nail to not clean up their poison and to position themselves along side the regulatory agencies in setting the public agenda.

Three years since this contamination was discovered and the agenda is searching for stakeholders and messaging. How sorry is that?


Dr. Linda Birnbaum

Don't forget Dr. Birnbaum's presentation on April 13th at Swan Valley HS --6:30 pm in the Auditorium. She is the first in a Speakers Series - Dioxin in the Saginaw Bay Watershed. Currently, Dr. Birnbaum serves as the Director of the Experimental Toxicology Division at Research Triangle Park, North Carolina, and is the 2004-2005 President of the Society of Toxicology. A leading authority on dioxin you will not want to miss this presentation.


Best Regards,


Michelle Hurd Riddick

Lone Tree Council