Environmentalists: Lawmakers weak on dioxin cleanup

Environmental groups lashed out at mid-Michigan lawmakers this week for advocating dioxin cleanup standards much higher than federal regulators intended.
Armed with a letter from the head of the National Center for Environmental Health and Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, environmentalists chastised lawmakers who have tried to increase by ten-fold the cleanup level for dioxin along the Tittabawassee River.
The environmental watchdog group Lone Tree Council presented a letter Tuesday in which Howard Frumkin, director of the federal environmental health agencies, says Michigan lawmakers have misused the federal action level of 1,000 parts per trillion for dioxin.
The level should trigger environmental action, not serve as a baseline for what levels of dioxin are acceptable for public health, the letter states.
“It was not intended either to define the need for remediation or to serve as a threshold below which there is no public health concern,” the letter says.
Lone Tree Council spokeswoman Michelle Hurd Riddick said the letter should put to bed the notion that the federal action level should dictate cleanup in Saginaw and Midland counties.
“This kind of misrepresentation does not serve the public interest. It just means more delays, more exposure and more risk for the public while we should be moving forward with a real cleanup that is protective of public health.”
Rep. John A. Moolenaar, a Midland Republican, pressed for legislation this year that called on the state Department of Environmental Quality to use the federal action level to address dioxin concerns downstream of Dow Chemical Co. rather than the 90 parts per trillion standard state law sets.
Moolenaar’s has revised that legislation, however. The mid-Michigan lawmaker passed a bill through the state House in June that would require the DEQ to recalculate its cleanup criteria based on the National Academy of Sciences recent review of dioxin.
While he said the federal action level provides a useful guideline for examining dioxin contamination in mid-Michigan, he also said the academy review and the upcoming results of a University of Michigan exposure investigation could yield a more accurate standard for dioxin cleanup.
“I have always advocated for the best available science,” he said.

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