Marcia Woodman no longer tends a vegetable garden. Even when the weather is nice, she tells her children, Molly, Michael and Mackenzie that they can’t play in the yard.
It’s been about two years since she was notified that her Midland Road home’s property is contaminated with dioxin. On Monday, she went to Lansing to tell Gov. Jennifer Granholm about her dilemma.
"My biggest concern is my children and health effects," Woodman said. "Nobody is exactly sure what will happen. Something might show up in my children’s children."
Woodman is one of more than 160 riverside residents suing The Dow Chemical Co. for the value of their property and for funding of a trust to monitor their health. She wants Dow, which deposited the dioxin there by way of historical manufacturing processes, to take responsibility for contaminating her land and putting the health of her family at risk.
Meanwhile, she wants the state to require quick cleanup.
She and a handful of concerned citizens and environmentalists requested the meeting with Granholm after a flurry of local and legislative action spurred talk about raising the state residential direct contact criteria for dioxin.
Michigan’s cleanup level for the manufacturing byproduct detected in the Tittabawassee River flood plain and Midland soils is 90 parts per trillion. Some say that’s too low, and that the number was derived without the use of accurate scientific evidence. They say no health effects have been proven and fear that enforcing the level will cripple the local economy by sending property values plummeting and deterring business investment.
To avoid that fate, state lawmakers, including Sen. Tony Stamas and Rep. John Moolenaar, have proposed legislation that would lift the action level to 1,000 ppt, the federally prescribed standard, until there is evidence that a reduction is necessary.
They’ve put further action on the proposed bills in the House and Senate on hold while the state talks with Dow and local officials.
"We’ve agreed to continue dialogue and work together toward a plan," Moolenaar said. "Whatever can be done apart from legislation is preferable. Certainly that option remains open."
But 90 ppt is set as a preventative standard and Woodman and others want to keep it.
"We know that number protects us from health risk," she said.
Tests of her property showed levels five times that – as high as 450 ppt. Other properties along the flood plain have 7,000 ppt. Midland soil levels, contaminated via airborne dioxin, averaged less than 200 ppt in the most recent tests.
Today Woodman’s family is healthy, but until there’s some definitive assurance, she worries about the future.
A handful of dioxin exposure studies are under way and the state has plans to include $800,000 in its upcoming budget for a bioavailability study that could provide a justifiable contact criteria for the contaminant.
Granholm spokeswoman Liz Boyd described the meeting with residents as an informational one – "an opportunity for the environmental community and residents to share their concerns."
The governor has promised in recent weeks that her administration plans to work together with the MDEQ, the company, the City of Midland and lawmakers to find a solution that will protect public safety, property values and the local economy.
The company must comply with state regulations as a requirement of an operating permit issued last June. When a process for addressing dioxin is identified, the public will have an opportunity to comment, Boyd said.
Reporter Kathie Marchlewski can be reached at Kathie@mdn.net or 839-4233.