EPA raps dioxin plan

Kathie Marchlewski, Midland Daily News 02/22/2006

The work plans that The Dow Chemical Co. proposed to address local dioxin contamination and comply with its operating license have been labeled "severely inadequate," "unacceptable," and "fundamentally flawed" by the Environmental Protection Agency.

Dow submitted the plans at year-end, detailing studies that would determine how much dioxin contaminates Midland, the Tittabawassee River and its flood plain, and how far the historically-deposited toxin has stretched. The variety of studies are intended to provide a basis for determining clean-up strategies. The company also will be testing for other potentially harmful chemical compounds.

But the EPA suggests that before the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality expends time and resources on thorough review, it sends Dow back for a do-over.

"We were somewhat surprised by what was submitted," said Gregory Rudloff, EPA corrective action project manager. "We felt that it was off-track enough that it should be revised before significant review."

Among the EPA's complaints -- that Dow's proposed testing plan is too sparse to produce technically supportable information about the nature and extent of contamination, and that the timeline is too long.

Dow, for example, had proposed the analysis of sediment from 25 places along the Tittabawassee River, one sample taken from a depth of 0 to 6 inches and another at a randomly-chosen depth. That's about one sample spot per mile along 22 miles of river, and EPA says it's not enough. It suggests more intensive sampling; at each quarter mile, from one side of the flood plain to the other, in a grid, and at various depths -- one sample per foot until clean sediment is found. For each 1,000 feet of river reach, sediments would be collected from 30 locations.

In Midland, Dow had proposed two phases of sampling to find historical airborne deposits, with the second scheduled for 2008. The EPA said delay and duplication is unnecessary, and would like to see sampling conducted in 2006 "to minimize ongoing exposure and related risks."

Of particular concern to the EPA is Dow's "Human Health Risk Assessment Work Plans." The EPA says it fails to comply with federal and state risk assessment policies and fails to use adequate or widely-accepted methodology. It also notes that Dow, while proposing plans to deviate from state and federal methodology, offers no evidence that those practices are unreliable.

Dow spokesman John Musser said the company is aware of EPA concerns, but that EPA is not the regulatory agency overseeing the remediation efforts.

"We have understood what their concerns are," Musser said. "Until expressed by the DEQ, we're not going to have any comment. We're hoping we can reach a common ground here with the DEQ that meets their obligations under law and Dow's obligations under law."

According to the DEQ, common ground is likely to include both parties' obligations to the EPA.

"We need EPA buy-in on anything before we can move forward," DEQ spokesman Bob McCann said.

The MDEQ's authority to oversee remediation efforts is granted by the EPA. If DEQ action is not deemed sufficient, the EPA could step in. "They could assume control of it themselves," McCann said.

EPA officials didn't mention intervention, but Rudloff said the agency is closely reviewing the process and planning to meet with Dow and the DEQ as remediation efforts move forward. "We're looking to make sure Dow stays in compliance with the operating license," he said.

While the EPA commentary on the work plans offers examples of acceptable options, there are other alternatives, Rudloff said.

The DEQ is expected to formally comment on the Dow work plans this week, starting the 60-day timer by which Dow must resubmit. McCann said the department's comments are likely to be similar to those from the EPA.

İMidland Daily News 2006

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