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Where is the dioxin contamination?

Almost the ENTIRE 22 mile stretch of the Tittabawassee River 100 year floodplain down river of the Midland Dow site is contaminated.  Dow's effluents then flow into and contaminate the Saginaw River, Saginaw Bay and Lake Huron resulting in one of the most extensive and highly dioxin contaminated sites in the country.

wpe8.jpg (4554 bytes)The Tittabawassee River flows through East Central   Michigan, USA in Saginaw & Midland counties.  The contaminated floodplain of the river is located in a 22 mile segment downstream of the Dow Chemical Corp. world headquarters and manufacturing plant located in the city of Midland, Michigan.  Dioxin levels in the T.River sediment have been found to be as high as  100,000 ppt TEQ.  The safe level for human contact is 90 ppt.  The T.River connects to the Saginaw River and then flows out to Saginaw Bay and Lake Huron.  Other studies indicate that the Saginaw River and the Saginaw Bay are also heavily contaminated,  Saginaw River sampling in 2007 revealed levels as high as 1,600,000 ppt TEQ. .

 Click on image to the left to view the sediment plume from the Saginaw     River as it reaches out into the Saginaw Bay.  Additional information on the Saginaw Bay can be found at the end of this page.



bullet12/06/08  140,000 ppt dioxin cells found along riverbank
For those unable to attend the November dioxin quarterly meeting last month, click here to view the transcript.
One particularly disturbing discovery this past summer was an area of Tittabawassee River bank located next to the old Dow 47 building in Midland.  This location is right next to the Loons baseball stadium, and was slated to become a public park.  However, Dow discovered some old chloro-alkalide cells and rubble that was being used as riprap along the river bank that were found to have very high levels of furans and other compounds associated with them.  Dioxin TEQ of 140,000ppt as well as high levels of hexachlorobutadiene, hexachlorobenzene, cadmium and some 5 herbicide type compounds were found in the area. 
This material was also found in the river channel and is believed to have been an on going source of contamination to the river.  Under CERCLA orders from the EPA, the material was removed late summer and fall of this year.  Dow is now in the process of trying to figure out how to cap this large hole in the river that was made, and what to do about all of the other sediment contaminants surrounding the site once the sheet piling is removed.
There is an ongoing investigation at other areas adjacent to the plant where historic waste treatment ponds all had outfalls to the river.


bullet Note, the height of the red >1000 ppt bars was capped at 5000 ppt for clarity.Great Lakes National Program Office Update
 At the February 9, 2006 Tri-County Dioxin Community Meeting, the DEQ  presented an update of the GLNPO study which presented a view of dioxin sampling activities of the entire Saginaw Bay watershed.  The presentation made use of Google images superimposed with sampling data comparing pre and post 2004 data.  Click on the image above to see a slide containing all of the current data points.

Distribution of Samples
-212 total samples from 116 stations
  Floodplain 115, Shiawassee-22%, Saginaw-68%, Bay-10%
  Sediment 97,     Shiawassee-33%, Saginaw-45%, Bay-22%

1) The Shiawassee River is not a significant contributor of Dioxin/Furans to Saginaw.
2) The Saginaw River Floodplain is not as contaminated as the Tittabawassee River Floodplain.
3) The highest TEQ concentrations, (up to 16,000 ppt TEQ) were found in the Upper Saginaw
     River Sediments (non-navigational).
4) High levels (> 1000 ppt TEQ) were found in the Lower Saginaw River and west portion
    of Saginaw Bay at depth.

Click here to view the entire presentation which is also available at
bulletThe Tittabawassee River and floodplain
bulletDioxin levels as high as 8,920 ppt TEQ found in the floodplain.  Area wildlife and residents are accumulating the poison in their bodies.
bulletRiver sediment samples have revealed concentrations as high as 100,000 ppt TEQ.
bulletAn ATSDR official mentioned at the Freeland Dioxin meeting on October 3, 2002 that if you have had flooding from the Tittabawassee, you have contamination. Testing is not really necessary and you must begin to use the precautions to avoid exposure.  The only information available at this time can be found in three documents:  MDEQ Tittabawassee Flood Plain Fact Sheet , MDCH Dioxin Fact Sheet (pdf) , and MDA Food, Farming, &  gardening guidelines to minimizing dioxin exposure (pdf)
bulletThe Tittabawassee flood plain is approximately 22 miles long, up to 6000 feet wide (width is wild guess, based on DEQ mailing to any resident within 3000' of river), and at least 15 inches deep (they did not measure any deeper).    If anyone knows the actual measurements, please let TRW know.  Assuming these measurements where accurate, up to 16,000 acres could be contaminated.  Further sampling will be required to determine the actual extent.  Over 2000 citizens own property in the flood plain.  Samples have been taken from Tittabawassee, Saginaw, Thomas, and Midland townships.  To our knowledge, no sampling has occurred in James Township.
bulletMany maps of the area are on-line.  They are very large files take a while to download if you have a slow modem connection.  The 1st two links below are relatively low quality, however they show the area.  The other link will take you to the MDEQ web site where you can download any quality of map you choose to wait for.

   MDEQ Map Phase 1 Dioxin sampling area of Tittabawassee flood plain (pdf)

   MDEQ Map Phase 2 Dioxin sampling area of Tittabawassee flood plain (pdf)

   Tittabawassee, Saginaw Rivers, Saginaw Bay Sediment, and Floodplain Soil Data in TEQ 2003

   Saginaw Bay Watershed dioxin sampling update February 2006

   High quality maps and other info from MDEQ web site

bulletThe MDEQ Final Report on the contamination can be viewed below.  This is a VERY large file and requires Adobe Acrobat Reader to open.  You can also view this document from the MDEQ web site.

         MDEQ Baseline Chemical Characterization of Saginaw Bay Watershed Sediment 8/29/02

bullet9/22/03  New dioxin test results indicate contamination lies OUTSIDE the flood plain!

Today, MDEQ released preliminary results of dioxin testing on a Tittabawasse River residents property located in Freeland.  The most frighting result was found literally at their back door.  242 ppt TEQ was measured at the surface.   This is almost 3 times the states maximum level Residential Direct Contact Criteria (RDCC) of 90 ppt TEQ.    THE HOME  IS AT LEAST 20 FEET ABOVE THE FLOOD PLAIN AND A 100 FEET FROM THE WATERS EDGE AT THE CREST OF THE 1986 FLOOD.

This development opens a 'floodgate' of questions and concerns.  How did it get there?  At this point, possible causes are speculative.  However, a former resident of the area states that many years ago, it was common practice to scrape up the flood plain soil and use as  back fill in the property lying above the flood plain to increase the size of a home's building site. 

If true, residents may find their "high ground" safe havens are polluted at levels greater than those found in the flood plain.

In addition, the former resident indicated it was common practice to mine the flood plain dirt and haul to building sites all over Saginaw County and as far away as Clare and Midland Counties.   Until now, people living out of sight of the river thought all of this was someone else's problem.  How many have been unknowingly living in a toxic environment and how many of those have had detrimental health effects because of it?

Another sample taken from the river bank of the Freeland property returned a value of 1,130 ppt TEQ. The area sampled lies directly under the feet of the people attending family gatherings shown on this web sites Picture Page.  A third sample from the flood plain was below 90 ppt, speculation could lead one to believe this depressed area at the base of the hill is actually where the dirt was excavated and hauled up to the house.  In other words, this location was "cleaned-up".    Further details of the testing will be released once the official MDEQ report is released.

The scope of the Dow's SOW currently under development MUST be expanded to include ALL property  adjacent to the Tittabawassee river, regardless of it's "flood plain" status.  The practice of backfilling building sites was probably not unique to this property.  Further more, Dow must take IMMEDIATE ACTION to protect residents identified with contamination within their immediate living space. 


The above testing results where made know to Dow representatives at tonight's public SOW meeting

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bulletThe Saginaw River
bulletTesting in 2007 reveals dioxin levels as high as 1,600,000 ppt TEQ.
bulletTesting in 2005 reveals dioxin levels as high as 16,000 ppt TEQ.
bulletTesting in 2004 reveals dioxin levels as high as 11,812 ppt TEQ
Recent Saginaw River Fingerprint December 04                                 Phase 2 Fingerprint Freeland Festival Park June 03


The dioxin congener "Finger print" graph on the left is from draft data of recent Saginaw River sediment dioxin testing by the Army Corp of Engineers. The one on the right is from MDEQ Phase 2 sampling of Freeland Festival park soil which is at least 22 miles upstream of the Saginaw River sampling site.  Click on the graphs for an enhanced view.  Notice any similarities?  Dow states they may not be the source.  Hmmmmm?

bullet ACE Saginaw River sediment dioxin testing draft data and additional graphs
bulletDow testing finds 1,600,000 ppt in Saginaw River next to Wickes Park

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bulletSaginaw Bay


We are not sure of what exactly these satellite photo's on depicts, but it sure looks like a plume of river sediment reaching out into the Saginaw Bay and Lake Huron.   Click on the images for a larger view.   The image on the left shows the flow of the Tittabawassee River from Dow Chemical in Midland Michigan to south of the City of Saginaw where it is joined by the Flint & Shiawassee Rivers to form the Saginaw River.  The combined rivers flow north through Saginaw to Bay City, into the Saginaw Bay, and evidently all the way out into Lake Huron.  The total trip from Dow to the Bay is approximately 43 miles.   Is it any wonder that dioxin has been found in the sediment of the Saginaw Bay? 

bulletMDEQ Baseline Chemical Characterization of Saginaw Bay Watershed Sediments 2002 (huge pdf)
bulletTesting in 2005 reveals dioxin detected out to 7 miles in shipping channel








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