On Thursday, following months of internal bickering over Mary Gade's
interactions with Dow, the administration forced her to quit as head of
the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's Midwest office, based in
Gade told the Tribune she resigned after two aides to national EPA administrator Stephen Johnson took away her powers as regional administrator and told her to quit or be fired by June 1.
The call came as the Tribune was preparing to publish a story about the dioxin issue and Gade's crusade.
Dow then sought to cut a deal on a more comprehensive cleanup. But Gade ended the negotiations in January, saying Dow was refusing to take action necessary to protect public health and wildlife. Dow responded by appealing to officials in Washington, according to heavily redacted letters the Tribune obtained under the Freedom of Information Act.
"Denial and delay has been part of Dow's game plan for years," said Michelle Hurd Riddick, a Saginaw nurse and member of the Lone Tree Council, a local environmental group. "They still haven't delivered."
The steps Gade took were influenced in part by her experience as an EPA staffer during the early 1980s, when the agency's top official in Washington was forced to resign after he allowed Dow to censor an EPA study documenting dioxin's dangers.
"We have a responsibility to make sure people are living in a healthy and safe environment," Gade said. "This problem has been out there for more than 30 years, and it's unconscionable that action hasn't been taken."
"We know Dow is responsible," said Ralph Dollhopf, associate director of the EPA's regional Superfund office. "The question now is when something will finally be done about it."