Lone Tree Council TRW
Dioxin Update
November 16th, 2006 # 54
Representative Carl Williams' Newsletter
In his quarterly newsletter to his constituents, Rep. Williams, in the HEALTH ALERT section,  devoted a lengthy piece addressing dioxin contaminated fish in the Tittabawassee river.  Representative Williams also voted against HB 4617 which will delay cleanup by removing the facility label. We appreciate his attention and ongoing commitment to public health especially when it comes to women and children.

Bill would delay cleanup

Friday, November 11, 2005
Goschka said the process will slow down, but for good reason. Of the hundreds of properties now considered facilities along the Tittabawassee River, many have had no specific sampling. That shouldn't happen, he said.

"Yeah, it is it going to slow it down," he said. "But it is because we are out to keep homeowners from having their property wrongly labeled."

Nonsense, Dow officials say. They say they have taken no position on the legislation and are committed to moving forward with cleanup.
There is no good reason to delay. We have contended all along that the sole purpose  behind HB 4617 was to delay cleanup and it would appear we were correct.
The frequently flooded areas of the Tittabawassee River are highly contaminated with dioxin. Hundreds and hundreds of samples demonstrate it beyond a doubt.  As the Tittabawassee River moves and floods and experiences high water events these contaminants are being transported and deposited within the floodplain and down river; a  scientific fact dangerously ignored in this irresponsible piece of legislation. Any sampling data of property is only a snap shot in time altered by the next movement of large volumes of water and contaminated sediment  across property lines and township borders. We keep hearing the call for "sound science"  but these legislators ignore it when the relevance doesn't support their agenda.
Supporters of this legislation do not want to acknowledge that this river system is not static and that the dioxin is pervasive and extensive the entire  length of the river and it's mobile. These homes, properties AND public health will not be made whole or protected with this legislation.  
As for Dow's comments that they have taken no position on this legislation. Highly unlikely. Dow's lobbyist has been seen wherever action on this legislation is taking place. One Senator told me, " Dow's lobbyist is all over this issue". Would Dow lie?  If the legislation passes it will open some legal, contractual or statutory door ( state, federal component to cleanup) that Dow will take advantage of to delay activities, challenge pending litigation or the requirement of their license. 
HB 4617 S1 Let Dow decide what's best for you and your family?
Senator Goschka amended HB 4617 in the Senate Appropriations committee with language which stipulates a homeowner would need the agreement of the responsible party, in this case Dow Chemical,  before their property could be listed as a facility. Unbelievable but true. The language reads as follows:

However,  in the absence of testing, a parcel or a portion of a parcel of property may be considered a facility if the owner of the property, the department, and a person who is or may be liable under section 20126 for any contamination on the property agree to the designation, in writing based on the presence of hazardous substances in the vicinity of the property.



What is Dow's incentive? This legislation started us down a  slippery slope which in the end will give  Dow Chemical more control and authority via legislation over their potential liabilities and statutory/legal 
responsibilities while removing more and more authority from DEQ.





Proponents of this bill now want to not only delay cleanup but give Dow significant authority over what gets cleaned up. This legislation negates the argument that this is about property rights or homeowners fairness. Nothing is fair about giving the polluter control over your property its cleanup or the safety of your children's immediate environment. Fairness and property rights are smoke screen. The supporters of this legislation were really responding to the special interests of the Chamber of Commerce, the Homebuilders, Real Estate interests and Dow Chemical. Public health, resource protection and  property owners being made whole by the cleanup of their properties and the restoration of the river are not even on these folks agenda.


Michigan Department of Environmental Quality Calls HB 4617 S1 THE POLLUTER RELIEF ACT







The DEQ is opposed to the Polluter Relief Act1 because it would:



1.       Shield polluters who want to avoid or delay cleaning up contamination they caused.  The Polluter Relief Act could make it easy for them…they just don’t sample affected property and refuse to acknowledge that it is a “Facility.”  Unless property is a “Facility,” the liable party doesn’t have to clean up.


Polluters may be unwilling to acknowledge that property is a “Facility” without testing because it amounts to an admission of guilt.  Especially if they are concerned about lawsuits from property owners, they won’t be willing to say property is a “Facility” without testing.  Because the cost of testing every property is so high, it may mean that even well-intentioned liable parties can’t afford to do what the Polluter Relief Act requires.


2.       Cost taxpayers millions for wasteful and unnecessary environmental sampling.  The extra cost of sampling every parcel addressed by state-funded cleanup work will be hundreds of millions of dollars. 


Where groundwater plumes cover large areas, the state would not be able to provide safe drinking water supplies until every property was sampled.  In a typical example, where 80 wells are currently adequate to support cleanup decision-making, 800 additional wells would be required under the Polluter Relief Act.


3.       Make homeowners pay to protect their families from contamination on their property if polluters don’t respond. 


The Polluter Relief Act changes the balance of power in favor of polluters by creating an opportunity for liable parties to avoid responsibility -- by not sampling homeowners’ property, and refusing to acknowledge it is contaminated.  The DEQ doesn’t have resources to police all polluters, and HB 4617 sets up a “David and Goliath” situation between homeowners and polluters who are trying to avoid their obligations.


4.       Stymie brownfield redevelopment by reducing the number of sites that are eligible for financial incentives.


Tax incentive and tax credit financing are only available for property that is a “Facility.”  Every parcel included in a project would have to be sampled to prove it is a “Facility”.  The cost of that sampling is a significant obstacle.



1 The Polluter Relief Act refers to House Bill 4617 (S-1)




Michelle Hurd Riddick

Lone Tree Council


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.