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Toxic Pollution


Tittabawassee & Saginaw River and Bay & Dow Chemical’s dioxin mess

Activists go to Washington

On February 26, 2008, the Sierra Club joined the Ecology Center, the Lone Tree Council, the Michigan League of Conservation Voters, and Clean Water Action in a visit to U.S. Environmental Protection Agency headquarters in Washington, D.C. for a discussion with Susan Bodine, Assistant Administrator of the Office of Solid Waste & Emergency Response Superfund Program.  The meeting seemed positive, our requests were simple:  Keep the Michigan DEQ in the lead on the investigation and cleanup of Dow’s dioxin mess; give the MDEQ backup when Dow pushes back unlawfully; keep all talks with Dow in the light of day; and please no backroom deals that let Dow off the hook.  Most of all – keep pressure on Dow to clean up their dioxin contamination as quickly as possible in the Tittabawassee and Saginaw Rivers and Saginaw Bay.

It seemed Assistant Administrator Bodine had never faced a large group of activists in her office before.  There were at least a dozen EPA officials with her.  Also in attendance were Region V Administrator Mary Gade and Michigan DEQ Director Steve Chester.  That same day, Assistant Administrator Bodine was also meeting with officials from Dow Chemical Company.  We wanted USEPA to know that Dow is not the only stakeholder in the Saginaw Bay Watershed, that the citizens and residents in the whole area are every bit as important.

Update May 1, 2008:

Today the MDEQ announced an agreement with the Army Corps of Engineers that will allow continued construction of an unlined unprotected slurry pit to dump dioxin-laden sediments next to the Saginaw River.  See details here in a press release from the Lone Tree Council.   The Sierra Club is extremely concerned that the construction of the Slurry Pit sets a terrible precedent for disposal of contaminated sediments. 

 Today the Chicago Tribune broke the story about the firing of EPA Region V Administrator Mary Gade because of her assertive dealings with Dow Chemical Company.  Ms. Gade, thank you for standing up to Dow Chemical Company.

Pine River:  Eugene Kenaga International DDT Conference on the Environment and Human Health

The Pine River Superfund Citizens Task Force teamed with Alma College to hold an international conference on DDT on Friday March 14, 2008, the Eugene Kenaga International DDT Conference.  The conference was held in honor of Dr. Kenaga, a Dow entomologist DDT expert who was instrumental in getting the state of Michigan to ban DDT, (and a huge number of equally important accomplishments.)  Gene passed away last year, as did Dr. Fred Brown, leaving a large gap in the PRSCTF Technical Committee.  The conference featured scientist experts from South Africa and Mexico, as well as the U.S., who have studied the human impacts from DDT use.  The South African government uses DDT to control mosquitoes that carry malaria, a disease that still kills as many as 2 million children every year.  The United States has yet to ratify the treaty that came out of the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs), and it is hoped that this conference will help to keep the drumbeat calling for the US to ratify that treaty.   

For more information:

Click here for the Sierra Club conservation policy on DDT.

See our Water Sentinels page for more information about the Michigan Sierra Club’s work on Gratiot County’s Pine River.

Contact Conservation Director Anne Woiwode for more information about the Sierra Club Michigan Chapter Water Sentinels project areas.

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