Dow still collecting information on dioxin

Friday, February 10, 2006 JEREMIAH STETTLER THE SAGINAW NEWS

Tiny footsteps led down the dock at Freeland Festival Park, imprinted in the soil left behind by receding floodwaters from the Tittabawassee River.

With a crack of emotion in her voice, Tittabawassee Township resident Ruth Averill held up a photo of the tracks Thursday during a forum on dioxin and asked how long children's feet would have to tread on dioxin-tainted soil before the contamination is cleaned up.

"What is Dow (Chemical Co.) going to do about this?" Averill, 58, asked of state regulators and Dow officials at the Horizons Conference Center in Saginaw Township.

The first thing, Dow officials responded, is to find out where the contamination lies, how it got there and what effect it might have on people and the environment.

The chemical giant presented plans Thursday for measuring the scope and impact of dioxin pollution downstream of its Midland plant. State regulators are reviewing the 160-page document.

The plan calls for more extensive sampling along the Tittabawassee River with dioxin tests at 25 locations for river-bottom sediment, 60 for floodplain soil and three for surface water. The task may include up to 250 samples.

Dow officials also intend to sample dozens of locations upstream of its plant -- a sampling area not affected by historic dioxin releases -- to better frame the downstream data.

Plans also include a human health study and ecological impact study to determine what dioxin is doing to the people and animals that live along the river.

"Today we've got a picture," said Dow spokesman John Musser. "We think we know some things about where these contaminants are, how they got there and where they might move in a flood situation. But we don't have enough answers to feel real confident about saying, 'This is the way it is and this is what we need to do to deal with it.'

"The only option we really have is to do the work to understand what we don't know."

Dow still collecting information on dioxin Page 2 of 2 The state Department of Environmental Quality wouldn't go into specifics about Dow's plan Thursday, only that it doesn't measure up to the department's expectations.

"We need to complete our review," said Deputy Director Jim Sygo. "I suspect it will be some time. We feel there are areas that need to be improved."

Sygo declined to give a time frame for when the state would complete its review of the work plan.

The lack of a concrete end-point irks residents such as Carol Chisholm, a 54-year-old Saginaw Township woman who said the process seems to drag on without anything to show for it.

"I don't see any action," she said. "It's just lip service to make you think they are doing something."

Another resident, this time an 18-year-old, attended the meeting partly because of a class assignment at Heritage High and partly because she lives along the river wondering how long people would have to wait to see cleanup happen.

"I totally understand the need for testing," said Katie Eimers, the daughter of Steven Eimers and Nancy Darling of Saginaw Township. "It just seems like it is going to be 10 years down the road before anything is done. Getting as much data as you can is fine, but it just seem like it's going to take a while."

Dow's work plans are available online at www.michigan.gov/deqdioxin . v

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


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