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EPA calls for open process to restore Tittabawassee and Saginaw River watershed


U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Region 5 today advised Dow Chemical Co., the State of Michigan, the Federal Natural Resource Trustees and the Saginaw Chippewa Tribe that it will no longer participate in the current mediation process to address contamination in the Tittabawassee and Saginaw River watershed, a natural resource belonging to the people of the United States.

“EPA believes a more open and transparent process is the best way to make important decisions that will affect the future health and vitality of the watershed for the people of Michigan and the United States,” said Regional Administrator Mary A. Gade. “Despite the best intentions of all involved, the current process is not working as effectively as it should and it is time to consider a new approach.”

EPA believes too little progress has been made because legal matters not directly related to restoring the watershed are subject to the mediation.

For example, many documents exchanged during the current mediation which began in December 2005 were claimed as confidential. This led to time-consuming debates over what constitutes public information. EPA must ensure that access to all public information is timely.

In a letter today to the parties, EPA said a more narrow approach, focused specifically on natural resource damage claims, could be effective once the overall damage to the watershed is better defined. EPA would be willing to participate in a new mediation process in the future to resolve natural resource damage claims.

As a result of EPA orders in June, Dow is cleaning up three dioxin hot spots in the Tittabawassee River. EPA expects the cleanups to be completed this year and set the stage for additional work downriver.

The Dow facility is a 1,900-acre chemical manufacturing plant located in Midland, Mich. Dioxins and furans were byproducts of manufacturing of chlorine-based products. Past waste disposal practices, fugitive emissions and incineration at Dow have resulted in on- and off-site dioxin and furan contamination.


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