High-level dioxin talks begin

Friday, June 25, 2004

JEREMIAH STETTLERTHE SAGINAW NEWS

LANSING -- Top officials in the state Department of Environmental Quality and Dow Chemical Co. have started negotiations that will shape dioxin cleanup along the Tittabawassee River.

Officials gathered behind closed doors Thursday to forge a new path for dealing with dioxin in Saginaw and Midland counties.

State and Dow executives have met at the request of Gov. Jennifer M. Granholm, who called for negotiations after conversations with Midland-area lawmakers on Mackinac Island this month.

The talks include state leaders such as Lt. Gov. John Cherry and DEQ Director Steven Chester.

Dow has fielded Arnold A. Allemang, executive vice president of global operations; Larry J. Washington, corporate vice president of environmental health and safety, human resources and public affairs; and Susan Carrington, vice president and head of Dow's dioxin initiative.

State and Dow officials provided few details about Thursday's talks, noting only that they were "constructive" and "progressive."

Michelle Hurd Riddick, a member of the environmental watchdog group Lone Tree Council and a longtime Dow critic, says she hopes the talks will lead to action in cleaning up the Tittabawassee River.

"If those big players are sitting at the table, this is not political maneuvering as much as it is a resolve to move the issue forward," she said. "That is not to say it is not contentious. I'm not that optimistic."

Hurd Riddick pushed for greater transparency, however. She said the state must shed a public light on its deliberations.

"There is no greater stakeholder than the residents along the river," she said. "The public needs to know what happened at that meeting."

State and Dow officials will meet again during the week of July 12. They have not set a date.

The parties revealed no specific topics for the meeting or points of contention. Instead, representatives spoke in broad terms of deciding what cleanup is most critical, what information still is needed and how to best balance the health and economic needs of Saginaw and Midland county residents.

Officials reported reaching no decisions during Thursday's meeting. They must present their progress to Cherry and lawmakers instrumental in the dioxin issue within a month. t

Jeremiah Stettler is a staff writer for The Saginaw News. You may reach him at 776-9685.

© 2004 Saginaw News.

 


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