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Internal Documents Show MDEQ in Collusion With Dow Chemical to Create "Dioxin Zone" in Michigan Through Illegal Agreement
Leadership of State Environmental Agency Working to Bail Out Polluter from Liability - Contamination of Entire Watershed at Stake
Contact: Michelle Hurd Riddick, Lone Tree Council 989-799-3313
Terry Miller, Lone Tree Council 989-686-6386
Diane Hebert - 989 832-1694

Government documents obtained by citizens in Saginaw County demonstrate that top management of the Michigan DEQ is working hand-in-glove with the Dow Chemical Company to craft an agreement relieving the company of costly dioxin cleanup requirements and exposing the public to dioxin contamination. Dioxin contamination at extraordinarily high levels has recently been discovered in the flood plain for miles downstream from Dow Chemical's global headquarters in Michigan.

Rejected by attorneys for the state as "illegal" and "fatally flawed" the proposed agreement is now on a fast track to enable Dow to get relief before a new Governor takes office.

Under the agreement Dow and DEQ Deputy Director Art Nash are negotiating:

  • A dioxin zone would be created in Midland, where permissible levels of dioxin in soils could be more than ten times above the health standard that applies in the rest of the state;
  • The same lax standard could later be applied to highly contaminated soils along the floodplain of the Tittabawassee River in Saginaw County;
  • Key scientific decisions about the risk posed by dioxin and how to address it would be pulled from DEQ scientists and delegated to a process that Dow could manipulate;
  • Dow would be relieved of potentially huge financial liabilities for fouling Midland and areas downstream to Saginaw Bay.

Documents obtained by citizens include:

  • An e-mail from an Assistant Attorney General to Nash dated October 11 that warns the DEQ Deputy that the agreement he is seeking to negotiate is illegal;
  • A previous e-mail from the Department of Attorney General instructing Nash to scrap a previous version of the agreement;
  • A letter from the U.S. EPA saying highly complicated scientific issues associated with the agreement will take months to resolve, and that the agreement should not proceed on a fast track.

"For years I have watched Dow manipulate and influence the system much to the detriment of public health. This is part of a larger pattern of influence-peddling that has left local residents with a legacy of dioxin contamination. Disgusting as these memos are it's politics and business as usual for Dow Chemical and for this DEQ Administration," says Midland activist Diane Hebert.

In the October 11 e-mail, Assistant Attorney General Robert Reichel wrote Nash: the draft "...the order is illegal and that DEQ lacks the legal authority to sign it. He explained that among other things, the order: 1) unlawfully purported to relieve Dow of certain liability to the state, 2) arbitrarily and illegally established certain "action levels" for dioxin in soils ten times greater than DEQ's existing statewide standards under Part 201 through processes not in compliance with Parts 111 and 201, 3) unlawfully delegated DEQ regulatory authority to private parties, and 4) illegally substituted "dispute resolution" procedures involving a de novo trial in Midland County Circuit Court for the administrative and judicial processes specified in applicable law..."

" should be aware of the factual background against which DEQ's actions in this matter may be judged by others. Regardless of DEQ management's own actual motivations for attempting to immediately conclude a written agreement with Dow on these issues, many outside observers will inevitably draw the inference that the proposed agreement is an "11th hour " and "sweetheart deal." Frankly, we are at a loss to understand why the DEQ would want to unnecessarily subject itself to such criticism ."

"This has always been about what Dow has wanted. It has never been about what was in the best interest of public health or the watershed. Dow's political influence is immense," said Curt Dalton of Tittabawassee River Watch after reading one of the memos about Dow's desire to get something in writing because the next governor may not be as favorable.

This potentially Hudson River-sized contamination came to light when citizens learned through FOIA that high levels of dioxin had been found nearly 20 miles downstream from Dow's manufacturing facility. Subsequent testing confirmed that the watershed and flood plain downriver from Dow's headquarters are contaminated with elevated levels of dioxin. Levels range from background to more than 7,200 ppt. The state residential cleanup standard is 90 ppt. High levels have been found in public use areas and parks.

To see copies of two internal email memos, and for more information on the contamination of the watershed, go to

This information is posted for nonprofit educational purposes, in accordance with U.S. Code Title 17, Chapter 1,Sec. 107 copyright laws.

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