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E-M:/ EPA's top Midwest regulator forced out over Dow contamination

Title: EPA's top Midwest regulator forced out over Dow contaminat
TRIBUNE EXCLUSIVE: EPA's top Midwest regulator forced out
Mary Gade, based in Chicago, says Bush administration made her quit over Dow Chemical case

By Michael Hawthorne

Tribune reporter

2:40 PM CDT, May 1, 2008

The Bush administration forced its top environmental regulator in the Midwest to quit Thursday after months of internal bickering about dioxin contamination downstream from Dow Chemical's world headquarters in Michigan.

In an interview with the Tribune, Mary Gade said two top political appointees at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency headquarters in Washington stripped her of her powers as regional administrator and told her to quit or be fired by June 1.

Gade said she had told the agency she would resign her position, based in Chicago.

Jonathan Shradar, an EPA spokesman in Washington, said Gade has been placed on administrative leave until June 1. He declined to comment further, saying the agency does not publicly discuss personnel matters.

For the past year, Gade has been locked in a heated dispute with Dow about long-delayed plans to clean up dioxin-saturated soil and sediment that extends 50 miles beyond its Midland, Mich., plant into Saginaw Bay and Lake Huron.

Gade, a former corporate attorney appointed by Bush in September 2006, invoked emergency powers last year to force Dow to clean up four hot spots of dioxin, including the largest amount of the cancer-causing chemical ever recorded in the United States.

In January, Dow urged officials at the EPA's headquarters to intervene after Gade broke off negotiations intended to renew the terms for a more comprehensive cleanup. Neither side would reveal details, citing confidentiality agreements, but Gade said Dow resisted taking steps needed to protect human health and wildlife.