Lone Tree Council
P.O. 1251, Bay City, Michigan 48706
(Fighting for environmental justice since 1978)
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE CONTACT: Michelle Hurd Riddick: (989) 799-3313
OCTOBER 24, 2007 Rita Jack: (517) 484-2372
Terry Miller (989) 686-6386
Kathy Henry (989) 695-5348
GREENS AND RESIDENTS ALARMED BY EPA ACTION IN DIOXIN CLEANUP
Fear Delayed Clean-Up; Loss of Transparency Due to Closed-Door meetings
Local and state environmental organizations and residents are expressing alarm over recent reports that regulators are again going behind closed doors to negotiate next steps on the cleanup of Dow’s massive contamination in the Saginaw Bay watershed. EPA recently announced plans to engage in confidential discussions with Dow Chemical, the polluter. “The full sunshine of public scrutiny is essential to keep the parties honest,” said Michelle Hurd Riddick of the Lone Tree Council.” While we welcome the EPA’s recent announcement to demand action on the contamination, we want the taxpayers and residents of this region to be fully informed, and we want all of the agencies working together”
Dow Chemical Company is responsible for one of the largest contamination sites in the country, with highly toxic doxins and furans, cancer causing synthetic wastes produced by the company and discharged into the Tittabawassee and Saginaw Rivers, as well as into Lake Huron. Since the discovery of the extent of the contamination five years ago, Dow and the state have bobbed and weaved over responsibility for the contamination, removal, and the risk of dioxin. Over the past five years, the Dow Chemical Company, regulated by permit through the federal law called the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA), has missed deadlines, provided the State inadequate sampling plans, initiated unapproved actions, and waged a public campaign denying the danger of dioxin. But after five years, this summer saw the DEQ pursue the first company directed efforts to remove some hotspots of contamination in the Tittabawassee River. Suddenly, the EPA has had enough, and when they reportedly saw more foot-dragging from the company they stepped in.
The sound of clapping, however, has been silenced by the realization that the EPA may not bring the comprehensive cleanup or openness that residents and environmentalists want.
“The EPA comes to the table with a different set of regulations than the state,” said Lone Tree Council’s Michelle Hurd Riddick. “The state has a signed license by the company, a requirement of transparency, and a legal obligation to deal with off-site chemicals. The EPA has Superfund (CERCLA), and it has a different set of regulations. Among the tools in their toolbox is a provision that negotiations between polluter and regulator will occur in a climate of confidentiality,” said Riddick. “ We’ve been down that road with the state, and the closed door negotiations resulted in a weak agreement and slowed progress on cleanup. We don’t want to go there again.”
Environmentalists fear that the EPA is about to imitate the state.
“We believe it is part of Dow’s strategy,” said Lone Tree’s Chairman, Terry Miller. “Shop around for the best deal, and if you can shut the public out, and meet behind closed doors, you mitigate the cost of cleanup and the bright light of public scrutiny – with the hope of limiting future obligations.”
Environmentalists cite recent EPA history in a Michigan cleanup effort:
“In Kalamazoo the EPA intended to go into secret negotiations for three months, and it turned into three years, with the public clueless during that entire time,” said Sierra Club’s Rita Jack an activist with the Water Sentinel Program, and participant in efforts to cleanup a similarly contaminated Kalamazoo River.
“We live in this dioxin. We have had to deal with precautions, delays, and evasiveness – now Dow has managed to shift the whole discussion to Chicago. The problem is here, in our backyards, not Chicago,” said Tittabawassee River resident Kathy Henry.
“We have had to live with this on again, off again approach,” said Hurd Riddick. “And just when we started seeing progress, the EPA steps in and changes the process once again. The public deserves better. Is it too much to ask that the EPA and DEQ work together, that Dow’s cleanup continue, and negotiations stay local and public – with no caps or limits on this company’s obligation to remove its pollution from our rivers ?”
Supporting groups: Ecology Center, Clean Water Action, Sierra Club Mackinac Chapter and The Michigan Environmental Council, Tittabawassee River Watch, Lone Tree Council
Negotiations with Dow in the last six years