Soil tests to begin this summer; dioxin resolution planned for 2017

The Midland residents whose properties have been chosen for the first phase of dioxin-related soil sampling are expected to be notified in June. A final resolution to the local contamination issue, however, could be much further off.
The Dow Chemical Co. and Michigan Department of Environmental Quality this week have been working on a plan to begin soil testing here, and have come up with a preliminary strategy including the identification of a sampling grid and the identification of a program that will keep test results private.
“In Midland, we have specific concerns relative to confidentiality agreements,” said Gary Dyke, Dow-contracted project manager with Midland-based CH2M Hill. “We feel like we’re all moving in the same direction.”
The program includes testing in 145 300-by-300-foot boxes. From those boxes, five soil samples would be taken. Only one would be analyzed for dioxins and furans. The boxes chosen are located in varying distances from the Dow plant, mostly to the north and northeast.
Residents who wish to know how much dioxin is in their individual properties will be able to request test results. “If people want their results, we want to make sure they get their results,” DEQ Geologist Al Taylor said.
Both Dow and the DEQ are sensitive to property owners’ privacy concerns, and want results to be kept confidential. As proposed, however, the sampling plan could jeopardize confidentiality. That’s because the potential exists for all five property owners within a sampling box to request results. If that happened, four would find out their soil was not analyzed. By process of elimination, the fifth property, the one that was analyzed, would be revealed.
“That’s a potential problem,” Taylor said of the plan. The two are continuing to work on a resolution to that issue.
Meanwhile, the DEQ also is reviewing Dow’s most recently submitted remedial investigation work plan. After issuing the company a notice of deficiency for the plans submitted earlier this year, the DEQ received revised plans May 1.
“It’s not quite yet where we want it to be,” Taylor said.
While Dow will be out conducting testing this spring, summer and fall, the sampling program is a preliminary one. Samples will be used for a bioavailability study Dow expects to complete in 2010. From 2009 to 2013, the company is proposing a human health risk assessment and from 2012 to 2014, another round of soil sampling. The work plans suggest that potential remedies would be explored and selected in 2015, with a two-year implementation ending in 2017.
Proposals for the Tittabawassee River and its flood plain are on a slightly speedier schedule, with completion set for 2012.
“It’s a proposed timeline with the understanding that there are a number of things that could change that,” said Dow spokesman John Musser. “The things we learn could shorten the cycle — or make it longer. Until we’ve got more data, it’s the best guess we’ve got.”
Environmental Protection Agency officials who first expressed concerns about Dow’s work plans said after an initial review of revisions, they have concerns about the schedule. So does the DEQ. The two agencies are working on a high-level review and comments.
“It looks like there are opportunities to expedite some things,” said Greg Rudloff of the EPA.
There also might be opportunities for interim response measures; such as ones already under way to protect people from exposure in areas of known contamination. “That might increase our comfort level with the time frame,” Rudloff said.

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