Officials, Dow Must Protect Mid-Michigan Residents in Wake of Historic Flood

Advocates release statement on need for action and transparency

Press Release

Contacts:


Terry Miller, Lone Tree Council, 989-450-8097, terbar@charter.net
Tracey Easthope, Ecology Center, 734-223-7603, tracey@ecocenter.org

MICHIGAN - In the wake of the recent historic flood in Mid-Michigan, state, federal and local authorities, and Dow Chemical Corporation must work with due diligence and transparency to protect the health of the residents, wildlife and the environment they rely on. As representatives of regional and national environmental organizations, some of which have worked for decades to win a cleanup of the contaminated Tittabawassee River and Saginaw Bay region, we are deeply concerned about the health and well-being of the residents of Mid-Michigan as they confront a historic flood in the midst of a global pandemic. The Michigan Department of Environment Energy and the Great Lakes (EGLE) and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) must take action to transparently assess the damage and take aggressive action to address any threats. 

Additionally, we are concerned about the broader environmental implications of this flood, and dangers that may be compounded by the state’s laws, policies and lack of resources needed to manage threats in the context of a changing climate, legacy pollution, and as well severely weakened state and federal regulations.

As the floodwaters continue to recede, we urge extensive testing of the region. Results must be transparently reported to the public. Any samples taken by Dow Chemical should be split with regulatory agencies and tested at Dow’s expense. We are encouraged by EGLE’s testing to date and reported plans to do additional testing, but the flood was so extensive, and so much material was moved, that more comprehensive testing is critical. Dow, the EPA and EGLE should: 

  • Conduct extensive sampling of any resuspended sediments throughout the region for relevant contaminants and remediate as necessary including residential and public park areas 
  • Conduct extensive sampling of the river, groundwater and private wells in the region for relevant contaminants and remediate as necessary
  • Fish and wildlife testing for relevant contaminants should be expanded in areas where subsistence anglers and hunters rely on fish or game as an important food source. Additionally,  appropriate communications and signage should be added where necessary
  • Any impacts on wildlife as a result of the flooding of major wildlife refuges in the region should be evaluated, addressed and remediated as necessary
  • The local community must be alerted immediately of any short or long-term health threats

The flooding in the Mid-Michigan region — in the state’s largest watershed — jeopardized one of the most extensive cleanups in the country. The flooding of parts of the Dow complex, and the ongoing flooding throughout the Tittabawassee and Saginaw River watersheds has the potential to mobilize highly toxic chemicals in the water column and in deposited sediment.

In particular, we are concerned about the integrity of the Superfund cleanup up and containment along the shores of the Tittabawassee River, and any re-suspension and transport of contaminated sediments throughout the watershed.  

Given Dow’s record when it comes to safety and transparency, residents deserve independent assurances that the onsite contamination at the Dow facility was contained and the integrity of site was maintained without release of toxic chemicals from the Revetment Groundwater Intercept System (RGIS;)  the wastewater treatment plant;  any hazardous storage or operations onsite; and the tertiary treatment ponds. We are also concerned about the potential release of chemicals from downstream hazards including the Army Corps of Engineers Dredged Material Disposal Facility (DMDF), a facility storing highly toxic dredged sediments from the Saginaw River, the Middlegrounds site in Bay City, and a 400 acre stored coal ash site. All of these concerns are in addition to the hazardous chemicals that can be unleashed from residential homes and businesses during a dramatic flood event like occurred in the region.  

Dow and all elected officials that represent the people of Mid-Michigan must work now to protect the lives and health of the people of Mid-Michigan in the wake of this extraordinary and potentially catastrophic flood in the midst of a pandemic.

Signatories: 

  • Clean Water Action
  • Ecology Center 
  • Greenpeace USA 
  • Lone Tree Council 
  • Michigan Environmental Council 
  • Michigan League of Conservation Voters 
  • National Wildlife Federation’s Great Lakes Regional Center
  • Natural Resources Defense Council
  • PIRGIM
  • Sierra Club Michigan Chapter 

Published on June 10, 2020