MDEQ: Dow has 2 months to resubmit dioxin plans

Kathie Marchlewski, Midland Daily News 03/03/2006

The Dow Chemical Co. has two months to resubmit plans for investigating dioxin contamination in mid-Michigan -- the first step in deciding what to do about it.

The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality on Thursday issued the company a Notice of Deficiency for the study plans it submitted at year-end. Part of the problem with the work plans, according to the DEQ, has to do with the assessment of potential human health risks.

"That's a major difficulty we have," DEQ Deputy Director Jim Sygo said.

The timeline proposed also conflicts with earlier agreements. The state and company had agreed that reports from a first phase of testing would be submitted in September 2006. In its latest proposal, the company sets a schedule including reports in April 2007. A second phase of work then wouldn't be performed until 2008, creating a delay the DEQ deems unacceptable.

Dow received the DEQ comments late Thursday afternoon, and still is reviewing the document, spokesman John Musser said.

He added the company used the best science and hired the best experts to develop the work plans, and Musser said it believes the plans are representative of the best approach. "This is an attempt to do it smart, and in a way that is time- and resource-efficient," he said.

Musser acknowledged there might be other ways to reach the desired outcome -- compliance with law while balancing interests of stakeholders, including communities.

"Hopefully we'll find a common ground that serves the larger community best," he said. "We're going to do whatever we have to do to comply."

While the state and company are likely to further discuss elements of the plans for which there is clear disagreement, they do appear to agree that in Midland, initial soil sampling should be conducted in such a way that protects homeowners from unwarranted negative stigma or negative impact on property values.

Dow initially proposed a double-blinded testing method that would keep property parcels from being linked with soil sample results until an areawide contact criterion level is established. The DEQ in its comments counters with a revised rendition of that plan, but one that still would keep study results detached from specific properties unless seriously elevated levels of dioxin are detected.

DEQ has indicated in previous communications that if tests should turn up levels higher than the federally prescribed action level of 1,000 parts per trillion, property owners would be notified of results and remedial actions ordered. "If somebody's health is at risk, we want to be able to do something sooner than later," Sygo said.

Based on previous testing, however, most residential areas in Midland with historically deposited dioxin contamination are expected to have levels only slightly above the state's 90 ppt residential contact level.

The City of Midland has been opposed to widespread testing before Dow and the DEQ determined what, if any actions would be taken to address contamination found and at what levels. The DEQ has contacted Midland City Manager Karl Tomion and plans to explain the plan in detail at an upcoming meeting. Tomion said until that explanation, he can't say whether the city will oppose or support the plan.

İMidland Daily News 2006
 


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