Letter to Administrator Johnson US EPA Washington DC
Administrator Stephen Johnson
US Environmental Protection Agency
December 17, 2008
Dear Administrator Johnson,
The Environmental Protection Agency has publicly announced it intends to negotiate a remedy to Dow Chemical’s dioxin contamination in the Saginaw Bay, Michigan watershed using the Superfund Alternative Site (SAS) agreement guidelines. The EPA has indicated these negotiations will be outside of public review. Given that one of the nation’s premier natural resources is at stake, this is unacceptable. The undersigned are writing to strongly urge you against this action. We believe the proposed agreement is an unnecessary diversion that could reduce the protectiveness of the cleanup required, weaken the government's hand in requiring timely action, curtails public input and eliminate government transparency and accountability.
This will be the third time in three years that closed-door negotiations have been undertaken with Dow Chemical. Implementation of the SAS is contrary to the public statements and positions taken by EPA Region V and the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ) on numerous occasions lauding the tremendous progress made in 2007 as a result of enforcement and investigations done in tandem under CERCLA and RCRA.
In March 2008 a joint letter was sent to Dow Chemical from then-Regional Administrator Gade and MDEQ Director Chester voicing strong support for the agencies’ collaborative efforts which they argued would lead to a “final remedy,” one which is “more likely to be final and durable” as a result of the coordination between state and federal programs. At public meetings and in conversation EPA and MDEQ have admonished the public to recognize the progress made in 2007.
A compelling case for a new path has not been made. This cannot be stated enough. There is no need for this mid-stream switch from an existing, clean up process under a workable, enforceable RCRA corrective action permit to an unnecessary, potentially detrimental SAS approach that could lead to time delays and less extensive and less protective clean up. Further, the timing of this action, as the EPA is about to transition its leadership, is questionable.
Finally, the closed-door process raises questions about the real intent of again proposing a new course of action on the cleanup. We are further concerned that the SAS process does not have the same protections and public oversight outlined under Superfund and RCRA.
We request a fully transparent process that takes into account the public interest and the human health and ecological implications of any action on this site. This site remains one of the worst in the nation, and in the last two years saw soil removal based on a finding of imminent hazard to the health of residents.
EPA and the State of Michigan have now been engaged with Dow in various aspects of the dioxin contamination and cleanup for many years. Resolving an issue of this magnitude requires great care and public accountability and your management of it will be a key part of your legacy as Administrator. We ask for the opportunity to meet with you as soon as possible. We are most happy to travel to Washington DC for this meeting or to take you on a tour of our contaminated watershed.
We look forward to hearing from you. Please make Michelle Hurd Riddick or Terry Miller your point of contact.
Water Keeper Alliance
50 S Buckhout
Irvington, NY 10533
Lana Pollack, President
Michigan Environmental Council
119 Pere Marquette Drive, Suite 2A
Sierra Club, Mackinac Chapter
109 East Grand
Cyndi Roper, Director
Michigan Clean Water Action
Tittabawassee River Watch
2935 Shattuckville Road
Saginaw, MI 48603
Michelle Hurd Riddick
Lone Tree Council
Chair, Lone Tree Council
Bay City, MI
Director, Environmental Health Project
117 N Division
Ann Arbor, MI 48104
Senator Carl Levin
Senator Debbie Stabenow