Tag Archives: dioxin

Dioxin testing in Midland begins; city participating

KATHIE MARCHLEWSKI, MIDLAND DAILY NEWS, OCTOBER 24, 2006
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With permission from property owners, The Dow Chemical Co. Monday began testing Midland soils for dioxin levels. And Midland City Council on Monday gave the go-ahead to have city-owned parcels added to the list of to-be-tested properties.
As part of Dow’s agreement with the state that it would find the nature and extent of contamination in Midland, the company requested that 14 city properties be included. The areas are on Orchard Drive, Grove Street, Carpenter Street, Lyon Road, Nelson Street, East Patrick Road, West St. Andrews Road, Iowa Street, Kent Court, Cronkright Street and State Street.
City Utilities Director Noel Bush said parcels and their owners — 571 including the City of Midland have been contacted — were randomly chosen. Dow and the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality mapped out the city and chose the areas that might be contaminated, based in part on wind direction from the plant. Testing generally will take place to the north and northeast of the Dow plant, out as far as Wheeler Road.
The city and participating residents have been assured that results of specific properties will be kept confidential unless levels exceed 1,000 parts per trillion of dioxin, the federal action level.
“I’m not believing that’s going to happen,” Bush said.
Midland’s historical dioxin contamination is the result of airborne particles that settled into the top layer of soil. Unlike the higher levels found in the Tittabawassee River flood plain and Saginaw River — there levels measure into the thousands and in some cases tens of thousands of parts per trillion — levels in Midland are much lower, most hovering around the 90 ppt level the state considers acceptable for residential contact.
To achieve confidentiality, several properties are being grouped into blocks and samples are not being linked to those properties. Results will come from one block of several parcels, but not from any one specific parcel.
“You won’t be able to get each property’s results, only the station’s results,” Bush said.
Soil will be collected by hand from several locations on each parcel with little disruption to the yard and within about an hour.
The goal is to collect soil that will be used in a bioavailability study. Dow plans to conduct the study in order to determine, based on the variety of soil types, how much dioxin is absorbed into the body when soil is ingested. Dow also plans to analyze samples for other potential contaminants. The plan is a multiphase one and a requirement of Dow’s state-issued operating license.
In the past, the City of Midland expressed concern on behalf of its residents that soil sampling could have a negative impact on property values and sales. To protect targeted properties from negative stigma, the City had argued that testing should not be done until the state and Dow agreed on a level at which cleanup or other remedial action would be taken.
To come up with that level, however, Dow officials say it is important to conduct the bioavailability study. The state cleanup level for dioxin in residential areas is 90 parts per trillion. Some areas of Midland are not much higher, averaging 150 to 200 parts per trillion. If the bioavailability study shows that dioxin is not absorbed into the body at as high a rate the state assumes in setting the 90 ppt standard, that standard could be edged up, removing portions of Midland from the list of potential areas of concern.

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Disposal site eyed by Dow for Tittabawassee waste is sneaky and irresponsible

Kathie Marchlewski, Midland Daily News, September 20, 2006
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Michelle Hurd Riddick, center, speaks outside of the Saginaw County Governmental Center on Tuesday during a press conference regarding what a Lone Tree Council press release called a “dredged materials storage facility” being constructed in Zilwaukee and Frankenlust townships. With Riddick are, from left, Betty Damore, who lives in the Tittabawassee River floodplain, Terry Miller, Chairman of the Lone Tree Council, Ellen Burns, a Zilwaukee Township resident, and Pat Bradt, Zilwaukee Township Clerk. “It’s totally irresponsible of Dow Chemical to want to put their dredgings into that inadequate site,” Damore said.
After spending days at the Environmental Protection Agency’s Region V headquarters in Chicago digging for information, members of the Lone Tree Council, a grass-roots group that first discovered the state and federal government knew about local dioxin contamination and didn’t share that information with the public, say they have made another discovery.
The Saginaw Riverside dredged materials disposal facility — which they have been fighting because of its inability to hold contaminated soil and to keep the public safe from contaminated dust, and its potential to recontaminate the river — also might be used someday to hold Tittabawassee River sediment.
They say this move is dangerous and sneaky.
“Toxic sludge should be disposed of in a licensed hazardous waste facility,” said Lone Tree Council founder Terry Miller. “Transferring it from the river bottom to the flood plain wouldn’t be a cleanup at all, but simply a rearranging of toxic sediment in a different part of the watershed. The idea that Dow is considering this, and that government regulators aren’t rejecting it out of hand, is outrageous.”
Midland’s Dow Chemical Co. is likely the source of the contamination and is working with the state and federal governments to resolve the matter. In unrelated work, the Army Corps of Engineers and Saginaw County officials have been working for more than five years to dredge the Saginaw for navigational purposes.
And so the two issues have become related.
Saginaw County Commission Chair Cheryl Hadsall declined to comment on the matter because of pending lawsuits. One has been filed by Frankenlust Township leaders and one by Zilwaukee officials who claim that Saginaw County officials have overstepped boundaries by going ahead with plans for the basin. Another federal case filed by the Lone Tree Council requests an environmental impact statement before a disposal facility is filled.
As far as Hadsall is concerned, the discussion over Tittabawassee soils is merely a rumor and the only soil going into the disposal basin is Saginaw River soil removed for navigational purposes.
And while the EPA told the Corps in 2004 that the proposed Zilwaukee dumping area “is not an appropriate location for the disposal of sediments contaminated with high concentrations of dioxins,” some say that could change. Dow, for one, has been looking into design features of the basin to see if its uses could be expanded.
Dow spokesman John Musser confirmed the company’s interest in the design and said that hasn’t been a secret.
Musser said Dow has paid between $300,000 and $400,000 to the group in support of the project, which was at risk of losing federal grant money if the company didn’t come up with a share. “We were asked to help with that, and we did,” Musser said.
James A. Koski, Saginaw County public works commissioner, said this morning the county hasn’t received any money directly from Dow, though Dow acknowledges supplying money to the River Alliance, a group with business interests in keeping the river navigable.
Musser said Dow has been upfront about its interest in the facility as a potential resting place for Tittabawassee River soils — if it is decided someday that some dredging will be done there.
“We’ve been supportive,” Musser said. “We’ve made that public statement. We would like to use that site.”
It would be up to Saginaw County, owner of the facility, to approve disposal there.
Koski said the site isn’t being built for that. He acknowledges the dialogue with Dow, but said the Lone Tree Council’s suggestion that there have been secret negotiations is incorrect. “Negotiation is the wrong word,” Koski said. “It was an inquiry as to what the site could be used for.”
He said that without starting at square one with a redesign, public input and permitting, there wouldn’t be room, or state or federal approval, for Tittabawassee soil disposal.
“The site we’re working on is a Saginaw River dredging site,” he said. “That’s our goal.”
While Saginaw County has accepted liability for maintenance of the site as a partner in the project, he said that because of the knowledge of contamination, it is seeking insurance to cover potential contamination-related expenses. The River Alliance, he said, will cover the cost of insurance.

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The new Dow-funded study in Midland, Michigan: insider Dr von X gives his view

DR VON X, MIDLAND, MICHIGAN, AUGUST 19, 2006
Dow has a long history of killing and contaminating people for profit. Just as you might expect a serial killer to perfect their technique over time to evade detection and responsibility, so has Dow.
Dow knew for several decades that the Tittabawassee River watershed, downstream from their plant and world headquarters in Midland Michigan, was likely to be heavily contaminated with dioxin, among other chemicals – knew because they’d done the contaminating (by dumping waste products there). The city of Midland itself is also heavily contaminated, but the source happens to be different – an incinerator that Dow operated for many years left a plume of dioxin fallout across much of the city. Knowing this, they did nothing, and remained silent.
Several years ago, while the state of Michigan was under the Republican administration of Governor John Engler, random testing of the Tittabawassee by the Department of Environmental Quality revealed shockingly high levels of dioxin. The DEQ hid the test results and also chose to remain silent. In fact the results did not become public until a DEQ whistleblower told a local environmental group that the tests existed (this was two years later).
The publicity and outcry forced the DEQ to announce more testing. Now that the crisis had been revealed, Dow was in a very dangerous position. According to their operating license (a legal document which permits them to function) Dow was legally obligated to clean up contamination identified as theirs to the state standard – in this case, a contamination level of 90 parts per trillion, or ppt. But given the levels of contamination that were being found, any cleanup would be extremely expensive. Levels of several thousand ppt were found throughout the floodplain – a vast area populated with thousands of people and hundreds of homes, schools, hospitals, farms and businesses. You can imagine the vast cost this would entail – and legally, there was no question that Dow was on the hook for all of it.
Legally the case might have been airtight, but that all means nothing if no one intends to enforce it. And Dow had many friends in the administration, starting with the Governor. The DEQ and Dow held closed-door meetings where they decided to solve the problem with the stroke of a pen – they’d simply raise the state standard for dioxin cleanup from 90 ppt to something in the neighborhood of 890 ppt. If this were done, Dow would still have to dredge and cleanup the sediment within the river – which often contained dioxin at levels above 10,000 ppt (the highest level found was 17,000 ppt) – but that’s much cheaper and easier that remediating a floodplain with thousands of homes.
The deal fell apart when Jennifer Granholm, then the state Attorney General, declared that a deal like this (reached outside of normal administrative procedure and behind closed doors) was illegal. Later in 2002, Jennifer Granholm was elected Governor.
Dow’s “quick fix” had failed. Now they had to roll out all the stops. And they’ve done so. Among other strategies, they’ve:
* Dramatically upped their “charitable” donations throughout the community. Throughout the entire region, they’re handing out money in fistfuls, and slapping their name on everything that they can. In fact, the corporate foundation is handing out so much money that Dow recently gave it another $100 million.
* Dow public relations folks have been canvassing every local PTA, farmer’s association, and kiddie fair for nearly four years, giving presentations to the membership of every organization they can reach downplaying the dangers of dioxin.
* They’ve publicly threatened to abandon their headquarters and leave Michigan, costing thousands of jobs, if forced to accept responsibility.
* They’ve created a front group of “concerned citizens” from the area that publicly support Dow at every opportunity, and label the environmentalists as crazy tree-hugging communists (one of the virtues of creating a separate group like this is that they can crudely smear Dow’s opponents and Dow can disclaim responsibility). The group is called “Midland Matters”.
* Their friends in the MI house and senate proved Dow’s legislative muscle by passing a bill through both chambers which would have slashed the DEQ budget, cut 117 employees, permanently eliminated the hazardous waste division (responsible for dioxin testing), and would have slashed the DEQ Director’s salary by 15% as an added punitive bonus. Although Gov. Granholm vetoed the bill, it was after its passage that the DEQ, Lt. Governor John Cherry, and Dow began closed-door negotiations about how to proceed. Concerned citizens were excluded.
* Dow has funded several studies by sympathetic scientists designed to downplay the risks posed by dioxin or the contamination.
As you can see, their strategy is savvy and multi-pronged. Bhopal used to be Dow’s #1 threat, but now Bhopal is definitely second-tier (they’ve moved all their best PR people from Bhopal to work on this dioxin scandal). The open-and-shut legal position, combined with the possibility of an Administration willing to enforce the law, put Dow against the wall. You can see how they’ve responded: with all guns blazing.
The last point is that the $15 million, Dow-funded study was consciously designed to downplay the dioxin risks. Firstly, it was entrusted to a scientist Dow knew and trusted: Garabrant has a long history of churning out industry-friendly research. It’s how he makes his living. The original study proposal was so flawed that it was flatly rejected by just about anyone with any scientific credibility, including the EPA, DEQ and Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (among other reasons, this is because the “control” group was to be a population from Midland, which is itself contaminated. Since this isn’t a health study, but is instead supposed to determine if folks had more dioxin in their bodies than they should have, the choice of control was important). As it was, the “control” population finally agreed upon was STILL from an area likely to have higher dioxin exposure, due to an old incinerator.
So what are we to make of this new study by Garabrant? The original study was tremendously flawed. It was improved slightly in order to retain some level of scientific credibility, without which it would be meaningless, but it remained flawed, and more likely to arrive at findings favorable to Dow than an objective study. The fact that it has found results unfavorable to Dow imply than an objective study would find results even MORE unfavorable. As it is, Dow and Garabrant have made numerous comments in the press designed to downplay the study’s results and make it sound like they are completely favorable to Dow (since citizens are unlikely to read or understand the actual study, media coverage is all that most folks will ever hear of it).
This new study is STILL an indictment of Dow’s dioxin.

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Make cleaning up dioxins a priority

EDITORIAL, DETROIT FREE PRESS, AUGUST 18, 2006
Areas downriver from the Dow Chemical Co. plant in Midland need to be cleaned up once and for all.
A thorough research project the University of Michigan conducted shows that although residents in the affected area have only slightly higher-than-normal dioxin levels in their bloodstream, they are clearly beyond what people elsewhere have.
Virtually everyone on the planet has testable levels of dioxins, a family of toxic chemicals. At least one type is known to cause cancer — although at a level greater than any found among the tested residents — and others are suspected of being carcinogens. Still others are associated with adult-onset diabetes and endocrine and immune problems.
Because these toxic chemicals break down very slowly over time, dioxin levels correlate most strongly with age. But in the study, people who ate fish, especially from the contaminated area, had higher levels, too. In fact, the food chain, except for fruits and vegetables, is probably a major source of intake for most people. But living with contaminated soil adds another layer of exposure. Combined with the fact that area residents are more likely to fish, hunt, hike and swim close to home, they may come in contact with the toxins at almost every turn.
Dow spokesman John Musser said it was good news that the overall blood-level increase related to soil contamination was so small. But researchers did find that blood levels of certain dioxins rose in tandem with the levels in residents’ soil at home. That supports the need to clean up places with the highest contamination.
The evidence on locally caught fish suggests repairing the Tittabawassee River ought to have a higher priority than it does. In the meantime, health agencies need to redouble their efforts to ensure anglers understand local fish advisories. Helpfully, the Department of Community Health will soon distribute 10,000 copies of a new booklet that lists lakes and streams with relatively uncontaminated fish in the Saginaw Bay basin.
For the Midland area residents, that’s only a start.

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Dow's dioxin getting into people too

Dioxin from Dow’s contamination of mid-Michigan is getting into people, according to the results of a large study released yesterday. The $15 million dollar Dow-funded study found that consumption of fish and wildgame and living in contaminated areas resulted in increased levels of dioxin and related toxic chemicals in blood.
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“From worms to butterflies and from fish to deer, the entire watershed is contaminated. Today’s results confirm that Dowâs pollution is getting into people too,” said Tracey Easthope, MPH, of the Ecology Center.
Dioxin can cause cancer and disrupt the reproductive, immune and hormone systems. Developing children are most at risk. Residents living in the Tittabawassee River floodplain near Dow had median levels of dioxin in their blood 28 percent higher than a comparison group in Jackson and Calhoun counties.
“It is unacceptable to wait any longer to clean up this contaminated area. Each year of delay in cleanup means more children growing up in contaminated backyards, exposed to dioxin,” said Michelle Hurd Riddick of the Lone Tree Council.
Another disturbing finding of the report shows that people who eat fish caught locally had dioxin levels that increased by 1 to 2 percent per year that they had been eating the fish.
“It’s time for Dow to take responsibility for this contamination and stop exposing the good people of these communities unnecessarily,” said Tess Karwoski, RN of the Michigan Environmental Council.

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