DEQ: More dioxins moving toward Bay City

 Friday, February 10, 2006 By JEFF KART BAY CITY TIMES WRITER

 More dioxins are on their way to Bay City.

State officials say the pollutants, left behind by past processes of the Dow Chemical Co. plant on the Tittabawassee River in Midland, are on the move.

Test results presented at a meeting in Saginaw Township on Thursday show that dioxins similar to those found downstream of Dow's plant have been found in the top 3-5 inches of Saginaw River sediments.

Concentrations as high as 16,000 parts per trillion were found at the Sixth Street turning basin in downtown Saginaw in sediment samples taken in 2004, said Al Taylor, a state Department of Environmental Quality geologist.

Exposure to soil with concentrations above 90 parts per trillion is a problem, the DEQ says. By Federal standards, anything above 1,000 ppt also is bad, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Taylor said levels on the surface are of high concern because fish are more likely to be exposed. He said it's critical that people pay close attention to state fish consumption advisories.

Results of the latest tests on the Saginaw River - from the confluence of the Tittabawassee and Shiawassee Rivers up through Bay City and out to the Saginaw Bay - were presented at a town hall meeting hosted by DEQ and Dow officials at the Horizons Conference Center. The tests were done by the state with a federal grant, focusing on areas outside the navigational channel.

Taylor didn't have a list of sampling sites available. But he presented a graphical map showing 20-some yellow spots in the Bay City area where dioxins were found in sediments in concentrations above 90 ppt and below 1,000. A few red spots - at the river mouth and in the bay - were shown where sediment levels were above 1,000 ppt.

The tests show a drop in concentrations between spikes in downtown Saginaw and others at the river mouth and in the bay.

Taylor said he believes that's due to navigational dredging done in the past which removed dioxins from the Bay City area. But he suspects more dioxins will wash into Bay City in time; concentrations up to 2,500 ppt were found in previous testing.

That worries Michelle Hurd Riddick, a member of the Lone Tree Council, a Bay City area environmental group.

Dioxins have been linked to skin disease, cancer and a host of other health problems.

''There isn't a wall between the Tittabawassee River and the Saginaw River,'' Riddick said.

She said it's the responsibility of the DEQ and Dow to ensure that the dioxin doesn't keep on moving out to Lake Huron.

''It is moving,'' Riddick said. ''How are they going to stop it? They are going to study this to death. They know where those high concentrations are. They need to pull them out now.''

Bob McCann, a DEQ spokesman, said it's not that easy.

''There are clear signs the dioxin is mobile,'' McCann said. ''But if we start digging and stirring things up it might make it worse.''

McCann said more studies still need to be done to determine the full concentration of the dioxins. He said the DEQ and Dow don't intend to keep studying the dioxins until they've all washed into the bay.

He said cleanup work in high priority areas could be as close as a year away.

Dow is to set to present a remedial investigation plan for the Saginaw area by March 1. Dow also has an obligation under its operating license to take corrective action on the Saginaw River and Bay beginning in 2007, Taylor said.

Taylor said the DEQ is still studying the fingerprint of the dioxins found in the Saginaw River, to see how similar they are to those found downstream of Dow.

The DEQ believes there were likely other sources of dioxins to the Saginaw River, including the Bay City Wastewater Treatment and General Motors Powertrain plants. So far, most of the dioxins look the same, but researchers have found ''a little bit of a difference'' in dioxins found near the bay, suggesting another source, Taylor said.

- Jeff Kart covers the environment and politics for The Times. He can be reached at 894-9639 or by e-mail at

For additional articles like this one, go to the Tittabawassee River Watch web site for complete coverage of the Tittabawassee River Dow Chemical dioxin contamination saga. . The Newspaper / Media page of our site contains an extensive archive of media articles dating back to January 2002. The source organization's web site link is listed to the right of the article, visit often for other news in our area. The Newspaper / Media page may be accessed by scrolling down to the bottom of the CONTENTS section and clicking on the Newspaper/Media link.