In one of her first actions as director of the Environmental Protection Agency, Lisa Jackson has ordered the Great Lakes office of EPA to stop negotiations with the Dow Chemical company — begun in the last days of the Bush administration — over controversial dioxin cleanup in the Saginaw Bay watershed.

The move is being celebrated by Michigan environmental groups that have appealed to the new administration to intervene in a process they say could shuffle the cleanup of a serious public health hazard into a non-regulatory process favored by the company.

“I think its pretty exciting that they are going to stop and take a look at this,” said Kathy Henry, a former resident of the Tittabawassee River floodplain whose property was contaminated with dioxin from Dow’s Midland plant. “We have been fighting this thing for so long.”

In January, Henry and representatives from a dozen environmental and community groups wrote to Jackson and appealed to her to intervene in EPA’s efforts to designate the areas contaminated by Dow as a “Superfund Alternative Site.” Such alternative status would lead to a vague process likely to shortchange citizen involvement and oversight, the activists said.  ...

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