and Dow Drop Dioxin Pact State Backs Away from Plan
to Relax Pollution Standards
Michigan Gov. John Engler's administration has abandoned efforts to significantly
ease state standards for toxic dioxin pollution that would
likely have allowed Dow Chemical Co. to avoid huge cleanup
costs near its Midland, Mich., plant.
The proposed rule change, negotiated by the outgoing
Republican governor's Department of Environmental Quality
and Dow officials, had drawn fire from Gov.-elect Jennifer
M. Granholm (D) and regional officials of the U.S. Environmental
Protection Agency, and was the subject of a lawsuit filed
earlier this month by a coalition of environmental groups.
The proposed deal -- a consent order -- fell apart last
Friday when Dow rejected language demanded by the state
attorney general's office.
"While it continues to be my belief that a consent order
to address the dioxin contamination in Midland is the
appropriate solution, it has become impossible at this
late date to prepare a final document that not only complies
with the environmental statute, but also reflects the
substantive comments received from all parties," said
Russell Harding, director of the state's Department of
Chris Bzdok, a Traverse City attorney who represented
the environmental groups, said that while he would drop
the suit, "We're still going to keep a careful eye on
the process and the dioxin in Midland."
Earlier this month, The Washington Post reported on the
controversy, in which environmental groups charged that
Engler was handing Dow a "sweetheart deal" that would
essentially relieve the company of a large part of its
liability for contamination of a major watershed in the
Dioxin is a potent toxin that can cause cancer and disrupt
the immune and reproductive systems. Experts say that
elevated levels of dioxin found in Midland soil likely
came from the burning of chlorinated compounds, while
the dioxin in the Tittabawassee flood plain likely came
from Dow waste ponds that overflowed in a 1986 flood.
The proposed rule change would have increased by more
than ninefold the amount of dioxin allowed in Midland's
soil. Some environmentalists said that if the rule change
had prevailed, it would become the de facto standard for
the state -- an assumption that state and Dow officials
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