massive contamination in the Saginaw Bay watershed. EPA recently announced plans to engage in confidential discussions with Dow Chemical, the polluter. â??The full sunshine of public scrutiny is essential to keep the parties honest,â?? said Michelle Hurd Riddick of the Lone Tree Council.â?? While we welcome the EPAâ??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 togetherâ??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.â??The EPA comes to the table with a different set of regulations than the state,â?? said Lone Tree Councilâ??s Michelle Hurd Riddick. â??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,â?? said Riddick. â?? Weâ??ve been down that road with the state, and the closed door negotiations resulted in a weak agreement and slowed progress on cleanup. We donâ??t want to go there again.â??Environmentalists fear that the EPA is about to imitate the state.â??We believe it is part of Dowâ??s strategy,â?? said Lone Treeâ??s Chairman, Terry Miller. â??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 â?? with the hope of limiting future obligations.â??Environmentalists cite recent EPA history in a Michigan cleanup effort:â??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,â?? said Sierra Clubâ??s Rita Jack an activist with the Water Sentinel Program, and participant in efforts to cleanup a similarly contaminated Kalamazoo River.â??We live in this dioxin. We have had to deal with precautions, delays, and evasiveness â?? now Dow has managed to shift the whole discussion to Chicago. The problem is here, in our backyards, not Chicago,â?? said Tittabawassee River resident Kathy Henry.â??We have had to live with this on again, off again approach,â?? said Hurd Riddick. â??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 Dowâ??s cleanup continue, and negotiations stay local and public â?? with no caps or limits on this companyâ??s obligation to remove its pollution from our rivers ?â??
Supporting groups: Ecology Center, Clean Water Action, Sierra Club Mackinac Chapter and The Michigan Environmental Council, Tittabawassee River Watch, Lone Tree CouncilNegotiations with Dow in the last six years
- In 2001/2002 DEQ and Dow, were behind closed doors negotiating Consent Orders with Dow Chemical for their dioxin contamination of the Tittabawassee, Saginaw Rivers and Saginaw Bay. Defined as â??fatally flawed and illegalâ?? by the Attorney Generalâ??s office they never saw the light of day.
- In 2003 DEQ, Dow, EPA negotiated and finalized Dowâ??s RCRA Corrective Action license to address Dow Chemicalâ??s dioxin contamination of the Tittabawassee, Saginaw Rivers and Saginaw Bay. This license was to be a clear path to finally addressing this serious contamination.
- In 2005 DEQ, Dow and the Governorâ??s office went behind closed doors to further negotiate the cleanup of the Tittabawassee, Saginaw Rivers and Saginaw Bay. Secreted away from the public the reasons for these closed door meetingsâ?¦Dow, DEQ and without protest from EPA, emerged after 8 months with a negotiated â??FRAMEWORK for and agreement â??
- Later in 2005 Dow, DEQ, EPA, USFWS, DOJ agreed to private closed door meetings under the Natural Resource Damage Assessment to once again negotiate Dowâ??s responsibility to address their contamination of the Tittabawassee, Saginaw Rivers and Bay.
- 2007, October 24th Dow, DEQ and EPA will again be going behind closed doors to negotiate under Superfund Dow Chemicalâ??s cleanup of the Tittabawassee River and possibly the Saginaw River and Bay.
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