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E-M:/ Press Release: Judge Orders Hearing on Illegal Dow ChemicalConsent Order

Title: Press Release: Judge Orders Hearing on Illegal Dow Che
Press Release

For Immediate Release

Judge Orders Hearing on Illegal Dow Chemical Consent Order
Federal Agency Harshly Criticizes DEQ-Dow Deal

An Ingham County judge Friday opened the door for a legal challenge to a proposed deal between the Department of Environmental Quality and Dow Chemical Company that would raise dioxin standards and could threaten the health of Michigan residents.   Judge William Collette, ruling on a petition by residents and environmentalists, said even if the proposed Consent Order is finalized by the outgoing Engler Administration it can be overturned if it is found to be illegal, as the Attorney General and environmentalists contend.

"While we were unable to convince the court to stop the order from being implemented, his ruling paves the way for us to be back in court if this sweetheart deal between Dow and the DEQ is made final," said Tracey Easthope, Director of the Environmental Health Project for the Ecology Center. 

The Judge's ruling was issued yesterday after a quickly convened hearing in the Judge's chambers.  The Judge rejected the request of petitioners to issue a temporary restraining order, but did order a full hearing in early January to review the issues.  In the meantime, the Judge's order will preserve the right of the coalition to challenge the Consent Order, even if it  is finalized by the DEQ in the intervening month.

The lawsuit and request for a temporary restraining order are the latest actions by a coalition seeking to block a proposed "corrective action consent order" drafted by DEQ in consultation with Dow that substitutes a standard of 831 parts per trillion of dioxin 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.

"We're pleased that the judge is willing to fully review the issues in the case," said Chris Bzdok, an attorney for the citizens, "and we are encouraged that our rights to challenge the order are protected in the meantime."

Also on Friday, Region 5 of the Environmental Protection Agency submitted extensive and highly critical comments challenging the draft order, in time for the close of public comment today, December 9.  For a copy of those comments, and for more information, see http://www.ecocenter.org.

Groups filing the lawsuit in Ingham County Circuit Court were: 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.  

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

To learn more about local efforts on this issue: Tittabawassee River Watch, http//:www.trwnews.org.