Standoff over dioxin drags past deadline

November 1, 2004


A Halloween deadline set by state regulators to reach agreement with Dow Chemical Co. on how to address dioxin contamination in and near Midland has passed with no pact.

State Department of Environmental Quality officials are publicly silent about the high-level negotiations that include Lt. Gov. John Cherry and top Dow officials. A statement on the talks may be made later this week, possibly Wednesday or Thursday, said DEQ spokesman Bob McCann.

The secrecy surrounding the talks that began this summer has unnerved some environmentalists who fear that input from state scientists, activists and the public has been pushed aside.

"Occasionally, regulatory agencies need to have private conversations with the stakeholders," acknowledged Tracey Easthope, environmental health director with the Ann Arbor-based Ecology Center. "But we are concerned about any process that drags on behind closed doors."

People familiar with the negotiations said conference calls between Dow and the DEQ were continuing as late as Friday afternoon.

At issue is the cleanup or remediation of soil and river sediment along at least 22 miles of Tittabawassee River floodplain downstream from Dow's headquarters in Midland.

Dioxin -- a persistent and toxic chemical released decades ago by Dow into the air and river -- has contaminated soils in the floodplain at levels many times higher than state standards allow. It also has contaminated residential soils in Midland.

Dow has promised to clean up sediment where necessary, but contends the state's dioxin standard for residential soil is unreasonably strict.

Contact HUGH McDIARMID JR. at 248-351-3295 or


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