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E-M:/ Relaxed Dioxin Standards

Enviro-Mich message from Terry & Barb Miller <terbar@concentric.net>


  Please take note of this latest assault on Michigan residents' health:

                                                          Terry Miller
                                                          Lone Tree Council


A rule proposed by the Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) late last
week would weaken Michigan's cleanup standard for dioxin and is a victory
for the Dow Chemical Company, a defeat for the people of Michigan, and a
brazen sell-out by DEQ Director Russell Harding.

Environmental groups today condemned Harding's decision to reject DEQ staff
advice and propose relaxing Michigan's dioxin cleanup standard for
residential areas from 90 parts per trillion to 150 parts per trillion.  The
decision means Michigan citizens will be exposed to more dioxin, an
extremely toxic compound already found at levels of health concern in humans
and wildlife in Michigan. Since the Dow Chemical Company is the party that
requested the relaxed standard, the proposal represents a win for the
company over DEQ staff, the groups said.  

"It is a case of poison politics over science.  said Dave Dempsey, policy
advisor  for the Michigan Environmental Council. "While flinging charges of
politics at everyone but himself, it is the DEQ Director who has injected
politics into the rulemaking process."

The new proposal is a reversal for Harding, who two weeks ago told Chemical
Policy Alert, a Washington publication, that the DEQ would not alter the
dioxin standard until the U.S. EPA releases its long-awaited scientific
reassessment on dioxin later this year. That document will likely result in
dioxin standards that are more protective (NOT LESS) than the current standard.

Harding's decision reinforces the need for an independent investigation of
the influence of Dow on issues related to dioxin and cleanup of Midland, the
groups said. Memos and correspondence in DEQ files show that Harding and
Deputy Director Arthur Nash have conferred frequently with Dow about how to
manage public relations associated with widespread dioxin contamination in
Midland and elsewhere, a betrayal of the public trust.

"Nearly doubling the concentration of dioxin that people can be exposed to
is incomprehensible," said Terry Miller, Chair of the Lone Tree Council.
"All of the scientific evidence points to the conclusion that we need to
reduce dioxin exposures, not increase them."

In a study released in March of 2001, researchers at the University of Texas
found that through food alone, Americans are already getting 22 times the
maximum dioxin exposure recommended by the EPA. Among nursing infants, that
level is 35 to 65 times the recommended dosage.

"There's more, not less reason today to believe dioxin is a serious hazard
to the public health," said Tracey Easthope of the Ecology Center.  "While
at least one form of dioxin is a confirmed carcinogen, an emerging body of
scientific evidence shows that many dioxin compounds can cause birth
defects, neurological delays, and chronic ailments."

Dioxins are a byproduct of industrial processes and are widely dispersed in
Midland, Dow's headquarters, and downstream along the Tittabawassee River,
most likely because of the company's past chemical production.

"With a wave of the wand, Harding is trying to 'declare' some areas clean
instead of actually removing dioxin," said Diane Hebert, a Midland resident.
"This could save Dow millions of dollars but cost the people of Michigan
much more in cleanup and health care costs."

Memos obtained by environmental groups last month under the Freedom of
Information Act show DEQ Environmental Response Division scientists opposed
to relaxing the standard and indicated that Harding and Deputy Director
Arthur Nash were directly involved in overriding the scientific recommendations.

In a November 21 memo, posted on the Michigan Environmental Council website
at http://www.mecprotects.org/deqdocs.html, a DEQ staffer said that DEQ
scientists "appear to be almost certain that what comes out of the final EPA
dioxin review will result in a direct contact criterion lower than 90.  I
think a decision to include 160 as the proposed criterion will be roundly
criticized and potentially become a political issue."

Harding's proposal is doubly bad because it would not only weaken the dioxin
standard, but also lock it into a permanent rule, thus making it harder to
toughen in the future, the groups pointed out. Until now, environmental
cleanup standards have not been promulgated as rules. Instead, the
mathematical formula for determining cleanup standards has been promulgated
in the rule. Under the old system, DEQ could revise cleanup standards as new
peer-reviewed studies demonstrate health risks.



The public hearing will be held on March 4, 2002, in two sessions. The first
session will be held at the Forum Auditorium in the Michigan Library and
Historical Center, 717 West Allegan, Lansing, Michigan, from 1:00 p.m. to
3:00 p.m. The second session will be held at the Sheraton Hotel, Aurora
Room, 925 S. Creyts Road (at I-496), Lansing, Michigan from 7:00 p.m. to
8:00 p.m.

Copies of the proposed rules are available for inspection at all
Environmental Response Division offices. The rules can be viewed and
downloaded from the Internet through www.michigan.gov (use the search
function and enter "Proposed Changes to Administrative Rules" including the
quotation marks). These rules can also be viewed on the Internet through the
Office of Regulatory Reform website. From www.michigan.gov, use the search
function and enter Office of Regulatory Reform to reach the Office of
Regulatory Reform home page, then enter 1995-020 EQ in the ORR search
function. Copies of the rules may  be obtained by contacting the Lansing
office at:

Environmental Response Division
Michigan Department of Environmental Quality

for postal mail: P.O. Box 30426
Lansing, MI 48909-7926
for express delivery: 525 West Allegan Street
4th Floor, South Tower
Lansing, MI 48933

Phone: 517-373-9838
Fax: 517-373-2637

An electronic copy of the rules may be obtained without charge on compact
disc (Microsoft Word XP format) by contacting the Environmental Response
Division office above. A paper copy of the rules may be obtained by sending
a self-addressed stamped envelope (at least 10" x 13"), with $9.00 in
postage affixed, to the Environmental Response Division.

All interested persons are invited to attend the hearing and present their
views. It is requested that all statements made at the hearing be submitted
in writing for the record.

Anyone who is unable to attend may submit comments in writing to Ms. Lynelle
Marolf at the address above, or by e-mail to marolfl@michigan.gov. Comments
submitted by e-mail must be in Microsoft Word or Rich Text Format (rtf).

Comments must be received in the Environmental Response Division office by
5:00 p.m., Eastern Standard Time, on March 25, 2002.

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