The documentary about Dow's contamination of the Tittabawassee River and Midland is now available for purchase on DVD. The cost is $10 per DVD + tax, shipping, and handling. Please contact the author, Steve Meador, for your purchase. email@example.com. I highly recommend this fine piece of journalism. Below is a brief description and bio.
Michelle Hurd Riddick
Lone Tree Council
The Long Shadow
By Stephen Meadow
For more than a century, the Dow Chemical Company has brought jobs and prosperity to the people of Michigan. The creator of household brand names like Saran Wrap and Styrofoam, Dow’s Midland plant has also manufactured more controversial products such as mustard gas, napalm, and Agent Orange. With its corporate headquarters located only a few miles away, Dow employs more than 6000 people in the Midland area. While the residents of Midland have reaped the benefits of Dow’s presence and good corporate citizenship for decades, the people downstream from the plant who live along the Tittabawassee River have lately seen only the costs.
In January 2002, the public learned that soils within the Tittabawassee River floodplain were contaminated with high levels of dioxins. Some samples measured 80 times higher than the state standard for residential areas. Dioxins are an unwanted byproduct of incineration and some chemical processes, and are known to cause numerous health problems, including cancer. Floodplain residents were devastated to learn their backyards might be poisoned, but even more disheartened to learn that government agencies charged with protecting their health were also part of the problem. Agency administrators had the violated the public’s trust by delaying notification and further investigation, censoring documents, and creating an atmosphere where agency staffers feared losing their jobs if they communicated with the public.
Environmentalists have long criticized agency administrators for being too sympathetic to Dow interests. Regulatory enforcement has been sporadic at best, and sweetheart deals between Dow and the State date back at least 20 years. When sampling confirmed the dioxin had come from Dow plant operations, many were not surprised to learn that a bailout for Dow was being secretly negotiated in late 2002 during the waning days of a business-friendly administration. Only the actions of outraged citizens and conscientious agency staffers, who fought against the decisions of their superiors, thwarted the bailout.
The Long Shadow details the dioxin controversy in 2002, from public notification by agency whistleblowers in January to the failed bailout in December. The story highlights the plight of three floodplain families concerned about their health, their property values, and the corporate and government forces that acted against them. The story is told through contemporary videography, historical photos, and interviews with floodplain residents, environmental advocates, key government officials, and state lawmakers. The Long Shadow exemplifies the need for citizens to be fully engaged in the democratic process, and the danger in assuming that government officials are always acting in the best interest of the public they are charged to serve and protect.
Bio of Stephen Meador
Stephen Meador is a freelance journalist working in print, radio, and film. His stories focus on history, science, and the environment. Before becoming a journalist, Steve was a Lieutenant in the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) Commissioned Officer Corps. He has a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering and a master’s degree in environmental engineering, and studied journalism for two years as a graduate student at Michigan State University. Steve lives in Wilmington, North Carolina with his soul mate Kate and their two dogs.