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E-M:/ Press Release - Citizens Sue to Stop Dioxin Deal Between State -Dow

Title: Press Release - Citizens Sue to Stop Dioxin Deal Betwe
Press Release


Coalition Challenges 11th-Hour Agreement That Relaxes Standard for
Dioxins, One of the Most Toxic Substances Known

A coalition of six environmental groups and citizens living in areas contaminated with toxic dioxin  filed suit today to stop a proposed deal between the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality and Dow Chemical Company. The deal, if approved, would expose communities to levels of dioxin nearly 10 times above the state's current standard, they said.

The lawsuit is the second in a series of actions the coalition is pursuing to block a proposed "corrective action order" drafted by DEQ in consultation with Dow that substitutes a standard of 831 parts per trillion of dioxins in soil, far above the 90 parts per trillion cleanup standard in DEQ policies and rules.   The less protective standard would initially apply to the Midland area, where sampling has shown high levels of dioxin in public areas, but could later be extended to other contaminated areas.  Families who live along the Tittabawassee River fear the standard will be extended to their yards and neighborhoods.   The coalition also believes that a state and national precedent could be set if the methods used to derive the standards are adopted.

"DEQ's proposed action is clearly unlawful," said Chris Bzdok, an attorney for the citizens. "The agency has failed to follow law and rules in drafting an order that seems designed primarily to serve the interests of Dow Chemical Company, not the public health."

Bzdok pointed out that an assistant attorney general earlier this fall critiqued a draft of the consent order as "illegal" and called for it to be scrapped. Instead, top DEQ officials have cut the Department of Attorney General out of discussions on the order, spending $10,000 in taxpayer money to hire their own outside counsel.

Because the consent order could be signed at any time after the close of the public comment period on December 9, the suit's plaintiffs said only a decision by the court for an injunction to stop the order could protect the public interest.  The DEQ has refused requests for an extension of the 30-day public comment period to allow public health advocates, environmentalists, local residents and others to examine the hundreds of pages of technical documents released by DEQ just weeks ago, and to provide comment.

"Everything about this deal stinks.  The public interest has been ignored, the science disregarded, public input has been squelched, and the law violated.  Now our health is at risk," said Diane Hebert, Midland resident and Director of Environmental Health Watch.

"If Dow gets away with this here in one of the largest watersheds in Michigan, with one of the most well studied and toxic chemicals known, this sham process could come to your town next," said Michelle Hurd Riddick of Lone Tree Council referring to the methods used to calculate the less protective cleanup standard for dioxin.  "This is bad policy, and bad governance, and it puts health at risk."

Groups filing the lawsuit in Ingham County Circuit Court are: Lone Tree Council, Tittabawassee River Watch, Ecology Center, Clean Water Action, Citizens for Alternatives to Chemical Contamination,  and PIRGIM.  In addition, ten residents of Midland and the contaminated downriver floodplain joined in the action.  

Michelle Hurd Riddick, Lone Tree Council - 989-799-3313
Terry Miller, Lone Tree Council  - 989-686-6386
Dave Dempsey, Michigan Environmental Council - 517-487-9539
Tracey Easthope, Ecology Center, 734-663-2400 x 109
Diane Hebert, Environmental Health Watch - 989 832-1694
John Taylor, Tittabawassee River Watch, 989-781-2950

For more information, see http://www.ecocenter.org.  To learn more about Tittabawassee River Watch, see http//:www.trwnews.org.