US Dow, EPA likely to reach accord on Michigan dioxin cleanup

29 September 2009 20:44  [Source: ICIS news]

HOUSTON (ICIS news)--The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Dow Chemical expect to sign an agreement soon regarding the ongoing clean-up surrounding the company's plant complex in Midland, Michigan, Dow and EPA officials said on Tuesday.

The agreement will include an administrative order on consent to comprehensively address dioxin and other Dow contamination along the Tittabawassee river and Saginaw river and bay in Michigan, the EPA said.

Dow's senior leadership was expected to sign the proposed agreement by 15 October, both parties said. Financial terms of the potential clean-up were not disclosed.

"The big thing is that the negotiators at the table have come to an agreement in principle," Dow spokeswoman Mary Draves said. "We are committed to finding a resolution to this."

Following Dow’s signing of the agreement, there will be a 30-day period for public comment and a public meeting. After hearing any concerns, the EPA and Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ) will decide whether to sign the agreement or if revisions are necessary.

“In June, EPA outlined our non-negotiables to the community at a public meeting and we have held firm,” said EPA Region 5 acting regional administrator Bharat Mathur.

Talks between Dow and the EPA resumed on 25 July, Dow said, after talks were suspended in March when the EPA said it would focus on making the process more “open and transparent”.

The EPA later said that Dow could face penalties and sanctions if it did not work cooperatively with the regulator, including the possibility of a full clean-up conducted by the agency at the company’s expense.

But the EPA said in late June that Dow's offer at that point was "in good faith" and was enough to bring the negotiators back to the table.

The EPA contends that dioxin contamination from the Dow Midland plant complex, which began operations in 1897, extends downstream in the Tittabawassee river, where it joins the Saginaw river before flowing into Saginaw Bay, part of Lake Huron.

According to the EPA, the site sends “significant dioxin contamination” that extends for 50 miles (80 km) down the Tittabawassee and Saginaw rivers and into the Saginaw Bay.

As part of the plan, the EPA has said it would negotiate an agreement requiring Dow to sample the water for contamination and identify options for clean-up.

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By: Ben DuBose
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