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E-M:/ Settlement with Dow - Citizens hope dioxin reductions will result

Enviro-Mich message from Tracey Easthope <tracey@ecocenter.org>

Press Release

February 20, 2002
Terry Miller 989-6867-6386
Diane Hebert 989-832-1694


(February 20, 2002- Midland, MI.)  Citizen groups and Dow Chemical 
Company have reached an agreement growing out of a 1995 Clean Water 
Act lawsuit brought by PIRGIM to address deficiencies in Dow's 
wastewater treatment system.  The agreement requires Dow to take 
actions that will reduce the threat posed by thousands of tons of 
dioxin-contaminated wastes presently held in Dow's wastewater 
treatment ponds, reduce Dow's airborne emissions of dioxin to the 
Midland community, and increase awareness among Dow employees of the 
hazards of dioxin.  

"We think the agreement reached represents real progress towards a 
dioxin education for Dow Chemical," said Diane Hebert, Director of 
Environmental Health Watch and a Midland resident.

  The agreement comes on the heels of emerging information that 
flooding of Dow's site in previous years may have washed highly 
contaminated dioxin sediments throughout the watershed.  "Its clear 
from recent revelations that this agreement is timely and desperately 
needed," said Terry Miller of Lone Tree Council.

The MDEQ is holding a permit hearing today to take public comment on 
Dow's request for a variance from hazardous waste rules that would 
allow the company to place the dioxin wastes into an onsite hazardous 
waste landfill rather than burning the wastes in one of its 
incinerators. The wastes represent a flooding hazard if they are not 
removed from storage in Dow's wastewater treatment ponds.  One of the 
conditions of the citizen group agreement with Dow is a set of 
safeguards designed to minimize the risk of offsite contamination 
during the landfilling process. 

"Citizen involvement has made this variance proposal much stronger 
and more protective of community health than it would have been 
without strong community oversight," continued Hebert.

Part of the agreement modifies a 1997 United States District Court 
consent decree in the Clean Water Act case requiring Dow to 
substantially upgrade its wastewater treatment system and remove and 
safely dispose of the dioxin-contaminated wastes held in its 
treatment ponds.  Representatives of PIRGIM, Environmental Health 
Watch, Lone Tree Council, and the Ecology Center met with Dow 
representatives to evaluate the possibility of using alternative 
treatment technologies to dispose of these wastes that would pose 
less risk to human health and the environment than incineration. 
Although the use of such alternatives was deemed infeasible given the 
urgent timeline of this project, Dow agreed to continue to test the 
feasibility of alternative techno0logies for future
remediation projects.

The agreement reached requires Dow to:

(1) implement a set of safeguards designed to ensure that landfilling 
of the wastes does not pose a hazard to the surrounding community; 
(2) make a public commintment to shut down one of its hazardous waste 
incinerators, and to reduce its overall incineration of hazardous 
wastes; (3) make a substantial commitment of resources and expertise 
toward the development of  innovative alternative remediation 
technologies for dioxin-contaminated wastes; and (4) take concrete 
steps to educate its employees about the health risks posed by 
dioxins; this includes jointly producing a video with community 
activists on the hazards of dioxin, to be shown to Dow employees, and 
arranging for a briefing of senior management on dioxin's hazards.

  "We hope this will be the first of many actions by Dow to begin to 
address historical contamination and realign priorities to reduce and 
eventually eliminate dioxin-generating activities," said Tracey 
Easthope, MPH, of the Ecology Center.  "It is long overdue."


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