Lone Tree Council and TRW Dioxin Update

May 8th , 2005 #41


DOW-DEQ FRAMEWORK Yes, we have all been adequately admonished to "move forward" now that Dow and DEQ have released the Framework. Yes, we have all been pummeled with feel good commentary that the regulator and polluter are cooperating. Yes, we have all been told that the if there is a conflict between the Framework and Dow's license the latter prevails. Well there are some conflicts and many unanswered questions.

In June 2003 Dow Chemical Company was issued a hazardous waste facility operating license by the DEQ. Dow did not contest the license, thereby agreeing to abide by the conditions of the license. This license is the mechanism by which Dow was legally required to address their contamination of the City of Midland, the Tittabawassee and Saginaw Rivers, as well as the Saginaw Bay. Each of the areas were identified in the license as being contaminated with Dow's dioxin making them subject to corrective actions under Michigan law.

For the first time ever, Dow was being held to a detailed plan starting with Scopes of Work or SOWs to deal with their dioxin. The SOWs included testing of soils in Midland and along the Tittabawassee River, Interim Response Activities or IRAs to immediately protect public health, and a detailed timeline for these and other activities to move all of the communities toward public health and resource protection and ultimately guide them toward resolution of this issue.

The Dow/DEQ Framework signed in January of 2005 unfortunately derails progress and puts on hold the detailed timelines and commits Dow to doing very little over the next year with no investigation until after a new dioxin criteria is developed. Dow is to doing very little over the next year. Subsequent activities are not known beyond 2005.

Below are some conflicts between the License and the Framework.


License requirement:

Dow must submit SOWs to do a remedial investigation of areas along the river and floodplain.

Framework compromise:

There is no mention of the SOWs in the Framework.


What happens if the SOWs are not approved? Does Dow still have to do a remedial investigation? Does Dow get to stall progress some more if they are not happy with the way things are going? Dow gets to ignore the operating license – with the approval of the DEQ. This is not a great precedent for a regulatory agency to set. Dow got the DEQ and the public to chase their tails for over a year working on the SOWs while Dow renegotiated a better deal for itself.

License requirement:

Dow was required to submit plans to carry out IRAs to protect public health and natural resources. These IRAs were supposed to be able to be implemented quickly.

Framework compromise:

The Framework includes some IRAs, but they were altered during the closed negotiations without public input. They will address only some areas with concentrations greater than a 1,000 parts per trillion or ppt even though the state cleanup number for soil is 90 ppt. The Framework uses flood data from last spring to decide whose homes are to be cleaned and have other minimal actions taken. No further IRAs are defined until 2006.


Dow and the City of Midland favor, without scientific basis, a 1,000 ppt action level because to date there are no numbers in Midland that exceed this level. The 1,000 ppt is based on 20 year old science (as stated by DEQ Director Steven Chester May 2004). Dow operating license says IRAs can be required at any time.

License requirement:

The SOWs must have a prioritized work schedule that addresses areas of greatest risk to the public and the environment first.

Framework compromise:

The Framework doesn’t address the SOWS. Under the Framework, Dow is not required to submit anything until the end of 2005. The Framework doesn’t commit Dow to doing any investigative work so they can prioritize risks to the public and the environment until a bioavailability study is done and a alternative clean-up criteria is developed.


The Framework makes further sampling much more difficult and could indefinitely delay actual implementation of the remedial investigation and final remediation. If it is determined that the 90 ppt clean up number is not protective enough, Dow could use the Framework to continue to delay action.

License requirement:

Dow’s license established a 90 ppt cleanup level in accordance with Michigan law. 90 ppt is established to be protective of public health for long term exposure to dioxin.

Framework compromise:

The Framework establishes a temporary and arbitrary cleanup level of 1000 ppt for residential areas labeled Priority 1 and 2. This is in conflict with the state of Michigan standard of 90ppt intended to be protective of public health.


This number is supported by Dow because to date there are no residential properties in Midland that come close to 1,000 ppt.

License requirement:

Dow’s license does not mention the Dow contracted University of Michigan Dioxin Exposure Study or UMDES.

Framework compromise:

The Framework considers the UMDES as relevant and appropriate to the development of site specific or area wide criteria.


The use of the UMDES contradicts public statements by the DEQ that it is irrelevant to cleanup. This includes the DEQ statement never released by the Governor’s office that said, "The DEQ will not be able to use the UMDES for corrective action purposes as described here. In addition, it is not appropriate to wait until the study is completed in 2007 to begin to take actions to reduce exposure. However, by referencing it in the Framework, the DEQ gives this study "credibility" even if it will not tell us anything about whether contaminated property needs to be cleaned up.

License Requirement:

The clean up is supposed to protect human health, natural resources, and the environment.

Framework Compromise:

There is no mention of natural resources protection in the Framework (i.e., rivers, deer, turkey, eggs, fish).


The studies DEQ and Dow have done on wildlife and ecology show that dioxin is accumulating in animals. The failure to recognize anything except human health is a stark omission given that the State of Michigan issued, for only the second time in the its history, a Wild Game Consumption Advisory.


Of course why DEQ agreed to change course so abruptly will never be known because we the public, the owners of these resources, were not permitted to sit at the decision making table. In addition the meetings are not subject to scrutiny under the Freedom of Information Act or the Open Meetings Act.



Michelle Hurd Riddick


Lone Tree Council


A state is bound to be more dangerous if it is not governed openly by the people, but secretly by political forces that are not widely known or understood. .............Andrei Sakharov





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.