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Cleanup Negotiations Between Dow and EPA Break Down

(Beyond Pesticides, January 11, 2008) Talks between the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Dow Chemical Company ended unsuccessfully when EPA determined that Dow’s offers were not comprehensive enough. Negotiations had centered around study and interim cleanup measures in the Saginaw and Tittabawassee rivers, wetlands, and Saginaw Bay. Dow agreed in July to clean up dioxin contamination downstream of its Midland, Michigan facility, but this time Dow spokesman John C. Musser said, “They were asking us to go beyond what we thought was reasonable, and we could not with our earlier offers resolve that dispute.”

EPA plans to return to negotiations, but the latest round was not progressing successfully. “Key issues that are paramount for protecting human health and the environment remain unsolved,” said Ralph Dollhopf, associate director for the Superfund Division of EPA’s Region 5 Office in Chicago. “EPA simply will not accept any deal that is not comprehensive.” EPA spokeswoman Anne Rowan added, “We’re not walking away from cleaning up the river system. We walked away from negotiations that we thought were not fruitful.”

The state Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) has worked with Dow to ensure completion of the required cleanup, and these latest developments seem par for the course to local groups. “We would like to see this get resolved, but we’re seeing essentially what the DEQ has experienced with this company over the last five years,” said Terry Miller, chairman of the Lone Tree Council, an environmental group. “It really comes as no surprise to us that there’s an impasse because we know the experience, again, the state has had with this company. It’s really unfortunate.”

Recent cleanups by Dow have illustrated the extreme need for restoration of the watershed. A section of the Saginaw River, recently cleared of contaminated muck, showed dioxin levels of 1.6 million parts per trillion, 20 times higher than ever recorded by EPA. While Dow dismissed the find as an isolated spot, activists are impatient with the company’s posturing. “For years on the Tittabawassee River, Dow has not done enough,” said Michelle Hurd Riddick of the Lone Tree Council. “They have stalled, they have delayed, they have complicated the process . . . Amid all the philanthropy, the best thing Dow can do is give us back a clean river.”

Sources: The Saginaw News, Midland Daily News


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