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E-M:/ State to Hand Control of Toxic Sites to Polluters

March 25, 2002

State to Hand Control of Toxic Sites to Polluters
Proposed MDEQ changes would also increase allowable dioxin in residential areas

Blasting proposed revisions as both illegal and irresponsible, environmental groups today called on Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ) to withdraw new rule changes that would keep toxic contamination secret and allow polluters to call the shots on cleanup activities.

Michigan Environmental Council (MEC) experts contend that this attempt to rewrite the Environmental Cleanup program, more commonly known as Part 201, violates Michigan law and will make it impossible for the MDEQ to protect the public from releases of hazardous substances at contaminated sites.

“Essentially, these rule changes give polluters free reign over all decision regarding sites of toxic contamination, including who they tell about it, and when and how they clean it up,” said James Clift, Policy Director for the MEC. “It’s a dangerous precedent, because these are the people with the greatest financial incentive to cut corners possibly exposing the public to unsafe levels of hazardous chemicals.”

“The people of Michigan expect state watchdogs like the MDEQ to watch out for their health and safety,” said Tracey Easthope from the Ecology Center.  “These rule changes send a completely opposite message.  The MDEQ is also raising the allowable limits of known carcinogens like dioxin, despite scientific evidence that the chemical may be more dangerous than previously suspected. It’s irresponsible and a betrayal of public trust,” said Easthope.

The proposed rules would, in part:

· Allow polluters to perform toxic cleanups without notifying the MDEQ or any public health officials.
· Raise the cleanup standard for dioxin in soil from  90 parts per trillion (ppt) to .150 ppt.  The Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry recommends lowering the criteria to 40 ppt.  Other state cleanup levels are as low as 8 ppt.
· Unduly restricts an owner or liable party’s obligation to notify neighbors when hazardous substances are migrating off their property.
· Releases polluters from the responsibility to conduct further cleanup if health data shows it much more dangerous to Michigan residents than previously thought.

Submitted by:

James Clift
Michigan Environmental Council
119 Pere Marquette, Ste. 2A
Lansing, MI 48912
(517) 487-9539