Saginaw Protest Raises Bhopal, Dioxin Concerns

Midland Daily News 12/04/2005
Erin Lynch wanted her voice heard Saturday night while sharing concerns about The Dow Chemical Co. and an industrial accident 21 years ago in Bhopal, India.
The Saginaw resident said even though it was Union Carbide India Limited’s plant at the time, the Midland-based chemical company that acquired Union Carbide should help victims of the chemical gas leak.
“I feel Dow has more than enough money to help the people of Bhopal,” she said. “I don’t think it would take that much to compensate.”
Lynch was joined by seven others outside the Dow Event Center in Saginaw, where they held signs and candles to honor victims of what has been described as the world’s worst industrial accident.
Dow Chemical spokesman Scot Wheeler said Dow acquired Union Carbide in 2001, and it was Union Carbide which owned 51 percent of Union Carbide India Limited. The state government in India, Madhya Pradesh, took possession of the Bhopal site in 1998.
“Dow never owned or operated the Bhopal facility,” Wheeler said.
He said the people at the vigil had good intentions that are misdirected.
“It is appropriate to remember a very important anniversary of a tragedy, but we believe that their efforts would be better spent focusing on the state government of Madhya Pradesh because they own the site, they are the appropriate authority to clean up the site,” he said.
At the candlelight vigil with Lynch was Mary Ellen Garrett of Saginaw. She was concerned about pollution in the Tittabawassee River, which she said is about one and a half miles from her childhood home.
“I can relate to the people of Bhopal in that way,” she said. “But they’ve been hurt a lot more.”
She said something has to be done to clean up the river to make it safe for swimming and fishing.
“We’ve got a monster in our back yard and we’ve got to do something about it,” she said.
Wheeler said Dow has put a lot of effort into working with the Department of Environmental Quality.
“That work is under way and we’re sure that it will continue,” he said.

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