Tag Archives: Tittabawassee

Tittabawassee dioxin testing progressing (featuring the ever-appalling John Musser)

Kathie Marchlewski, Midland Daily News, November 11, 2006
Soil sampling to find out how much dioxin is in Midland is about half done.
Dow Chemical Co. officials said that as of Tuesday, 179 of 405 properties had been visited and their soil collected.
“This is more than enough for us to achieve the statistically valid results we hope to get,” Dow spokesman John Musser said.
The sampling is part of Dow’s efforts to resolve the local dioxin contamination problem. First on the agenda is a bioavailability study which will determine how much dioxin is absorbed into the body from soil that is ingested. Since the amount can vary based on the type of soil, Dow needs samples of the different types in Midland.
“That’s the number one reason for soil sampling in Midland,” Musser said.
The state estimates the level of dioxin absorbed. By finding real-life numbers based on real-life data, the 90 parts per trillion state standard for dioxin could potentially be readjusted for Midland. If the shift were upward because the rate of absorption was found to be lower, the dioxin problem could be resolved for large portions of Midland. Many areas have borderline dioxin levels just slightly over the 90 ppt.
The second reason for soil sampling is the testing for the levels of dioxins, furans and other chemical compounds.
Results of testing, which will be disclosed in a way that keeps individual properties from being identified and linked to their levels except in cases where the numbers exceed federal action levels, are expected after the first of the year.
Field work on the dioxin issue in the Tittabawassee River also is progressing. Crews have clocked 6,000 man hours and collected 2,600 soil samples at 600 locations along the river in the last 90 days. “That’s a task no one has completed in the history of man,” said Peter Simon of Ann Arbor-based ATS, which is conducting the study called GeoMorphing.
The goal is to first find out how the river works; what its erosion and deposition patterns are. Based on that knowledge, a plan can be developed to address the contamination without making it worse by stirring up settled but contaminated sediment.
He said that analyzing the data, a task that usually takes longer than a week, is being done in about 48 hours. “We’ve consumed most of the lab capacity on the Midwest,” Simon said.
The quick turnaround has enabled the team to move through the investigation on a near “real-time” basis, get through the field season before snow sets in, and begin developing a remedial investigation work plan for the river based on the data. That plan is expected to be submitted to the state in December.

Dow dioxins: study critics seek results

Terry Miller has had enough of the sampling, the testing and the planning. He wants action.
A leader of the Bay City-based Lone Tree Council environmental group, Miller voiced his concern during Wednesday’s quarterly dioxin community meeting at the Horizons Conference Center in Saginaw Township.
The gathering featured slide presentations detailing progress of ongoing contamination tests conducted in the mid-Michigan region.
It also included more detailed analysis from David H. Garabrant, a University of Michigan medicine and epidemiology professor who disclosed the majority of the results from a $15 million dioxin exposure probe in August.
“With all due respect, we don’t need to hear from Dr. Garabrant again,” Miller said. “We would like to hear about successful remediated sites to see what can be done.”
Miller criticized members of Ann Arbor Technical Services Inc., which Dow Chemical Co. contracted to conduct soil samplings along a six-mile stretch of the Tittabawassee River.
Earlier in the meeting, which drew about 70 people, Peter Simon, project manager, explained the early findings of the study.
“Why weren’t remedial techniques used during the evaluation of that site?” Miller asked him.
Simon said the plan calls for a cleanup strategy but only after researchers better understand some of the river’s characteristics. “We need to be careful before we decide what we do,” he said.
Workers have collected 2,600 samples from 600 locations along the confluence of the Tittabawassee and Chippewa rivers, logging more than 6,000 hours of work.
“We’ve been busy peeling back the layers of the onion (of soil sediment along the river) to see more than 100 years ago,” Simon said.
Some results are available.
Early analysis shows “little contamination” in the portion of the stretch considered a floodplain, he said. The majority of the contaminants are under layers of soil in other ends of the river, he said.
Simon said the purpose of the study is to determine the best strategy to prevent the contaminated sediment from moving downriver.
Miller wasn’t the only audience member critical of the meeting’s presenters.
Kathy Henry, a 48-year-old Freeland resident and a chief litigant in a class-action lawsuit filed against Dow in March 2003, panned what she called “downplayed results” in Garabrant’s study. His findings show age is the largest factor in determining the amount of dioxin blood levels, not the location of a homeowner’s property.
Scientists have linked dioxin, a group of contaminants present downstream and downwind of Dow’s Midland complex, to some forms of cancer, reproductive problems and weakened immune systems in laboratory animals.
The study shows people living in the Tittabawassee River floodplain near Dow had 32 parts of dioxin for every trillion parts of blood compared to 25 parts, around the national average, in those living in a study group in the Jackson and Calhoun regions.
Garabrant said the difference has more to do with age than location. People living around Dow are older than those living in the control site.
Henry said such observations underplay the dangers of the dioxin levels.
She said the information should raise concerns for mid-Michigan residents in the same way the dangers of secondhand smoke and lead poisoning from overseas-built toys raise alarm for children.
“(The study shows), ‘It’s just a little bit; it’s no big deal,’ ” Henry said. “It’s morally wrong (to say that). Dioxin can cause cancer.”
Garabrant said the data speak for themselves. “It is what it is,” he told her.
Justin Engel is a staff writer for The Saginaw News. You may reach him at 776-9691.

Dow Chemical Co. begins dioxin testing in Midland

MIDLAND – Soil testing to detect the presence of dioxins and furans began this week in Midland, and most property owners seem eager to know the results.
Of the 571 property owners who received letters from Dow Chemical Co. asking for sampling permission, 350 have said ”yes” so far, said Noel D. Bush, Midland’s utilities director.
The city is among them.
City Council members have agreed to let Dow sample soil at 14 city-owned parcels as part of the company’s corrective action plan under its hazardous waste facility operating license, Bush said.
Dow is looking for chemicals historically released from its complex to see if nearby properties are contaminated.
Dow and the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality developed the testing plan, Bush said.
It involves drawing 23 lines radiating from the complex. Surface soil samples will come from 145 spots spaced every 950 feet along the lines, eight or 10 per line.
”Dow’s contractor will take enough soil to fill about a quart jar,” Bush said.
Dow will restore the property after sampling. Each dig should take about one hour, Bush said.
Samples will come from front yards, if possible, for easy accessibility by the sampling team.
Bush said that if results show that contaminants pose harm, the parties will identify the property so Dow and the DEQ can decide how to proceed.
Bush said the study areas range as far north as Wheeler Road.

Environmental justice tour to visit Saginaw

A statewide “Environmental Justice for All” tour will stop Thursday in Saginaw to explore the impact of environmental health threats.
Eliminating lead poisoning and educating residents about dioxin risks in the Saginaw Bay watershed are focuses of the midday stop.
The Campaign for State Action on Environmental Justice is leading the tour from Detroit to Saginaw and Grand Rapids, where low-income and minority communities often are at greater risk of contamination hazards, organizers said.
Representatives of the Saginaw Lead Hazard Control Program at the County Department of Public Health, the Ezekiel Project of Saginaw and HealthPlus of Michigan will host a rally to support the goal of eliminating lead poisoning by 2010.
They will introduce the Saginaw Lead Elimination Planning Campaign at
11 a.m. at St. John Lutheran Church, 915 Federal in Saginaw. Tour members will take part in a press conference at 11:30 a.m.
County health leaders are working to meet the state’s goal of eliminating the lead paint risk in the next five years, said Pamela L. Smith, manager of the Saginaw lead control initiative.
At noon, the state group will tour the city of Saginaw, looking at housing and the Saginaw River. A community discussion will follow at 12:30 p.m. at the First Ward Community Center, 1410 12th in Saginaw.
A state Department of Community Health study found that many people surveyed reported they eat carp and catfish from the Saginaw and Tittabawassee rivers, even though the state has said the fish contain dioxins, furans and PCBs at levels that could cause harm.
“Environmental justice is about who has a voice and who doesn’t, and who is being hurt,” said Michelle Hurd-Riddick of Saginaw, an environmental activist with the Tri-Counites-based Lone Tree Council who is taking part in the event. “We know a number of indigent people are fishing the river to feed their families or stretch their food dollar.”
More than 25 officials, activists and others have joined the tour, said Kathryn Savoie, an organizer with the Arab Community Center for Economic Justice and Social Services in Dearborn.
“We are talking to people around the state to promote policies and develop contacts in Saginaw and Grand Rapids,” she said. “Most of the people doing this work for the group are in the southeast part of the state. We want to see these other areas and share dialogue.”
Also during National Childhood Lead Poisoning Prevention Week, members of the Ezekiel Project faith-based coalition will discuss proposed regulations that would outlaw the import and distribution of toys containing lead.
The group’s annual public meeting is at 3:30 p.m. Sunday at First Congregational Church, 403 S. Jefferson in Saginaw. Lead is one topic on the agenda. v

Resolution blocked over dredging spoils

A member of the Saginaw County Board of Commissioners has blocked a vote on a resolution declaring a future disposal site off-limits to anything but dredging spoils from the Saginaw River.
Tim Novak, a Carrollton Township Democrat who introduced the resolution, vowed the 15 members of the board would face the issue again.
“This isn’t the last time that we’ll see this,” Novak said. “The public needs to know what’s going into that facility.”
The site, known as the Dredge Materials Disposal Facility, straddles Frankenlust Township in Bay County and Zilwaukee Township in Saginaw County, part of which is in Novak’s district.
Commissioner Carl E. Ruth, a Saginaw Democrat, using “commissioner’s privilege” to send an item to committee, blocked a vote without explanation. Ruth later said it was to give commissioners more time to find out about environmentalists’ concerns that Dow Chemical Co. might use the site.Novak wants to assure residents no hazardous or toxic contaminants outside the river shipping channel go into the site, which is now under construction.
Several critics reminded commissioners Tuesday of their fears.
“We are worried once the site is built, it’s anything goes,” said Frankenlust Township Supervisor Hilda Dijak.
“This project came about too quickly, too quietly and without enough public scrutiny,” said Joel Tanner, a Saginaw resident.
Michelle Hurd Riddick, a spokeswoman for the environmental group Lone Tree Council, said now that Dow’s interest has become public, it will receive more scrutiny.
A Dow spokesman has said the Midland-based company is exploring the possible use of the site if a regulatory agency orders the chemical giant to dredge contaminated rivers. Dioxin contamination remains a major concern primarily in the Tittabawassee River watershed.
Dow contributed between $300,000 and $500,000 to the Saginaw River Alliance, a group of dock owners who gave more than $1.5 million to the $5 million project.
The state Department of Environmental Quality, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the county would have to agree to let Dow to use the facility, said Saginaw County Public Works Commissioner James A. Koski.
The DEQ has said it’s not an option the agency has considered. In a news release last month, the Corps of Engineers said it has yet to receive a request to deposit material at the site.
Federal and state permits, however, do not allow the disposal of anything other than material from the Saginaw River, Koski said.
Commissioners will review the issue at 4 p.m. Tuesday in the County Governmental Center, 111 S. Michigan. v
Barrie Barber covers politics and government for The Saginaw News. You may reach him at 776-9725.