EPA Quits River Cleanup Talks With Dow

EPA recently halted negotiations with Dow Chemical, claiming the company has not offered a deal representing comprehensive cleanup efforts for the dioxin-contaminated Tittabawassee River system.

The targeted area, beginning upstream of Dow's Midland, Mich., facility and extending downstream to the Saginaw River, contains dioxins and furans, byproducts from the manufacture of chlorine-based products. EPA claims Dow's past waste disposal practices, fugitive emissions and incineration resulted in on- and off-site dioxin and furan contamination.

EPA and Dow began negotiating in October under provisions of the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act, or Superfund, to reach a settlement on conducting a study and interim cleanup actions for the river system.

“EPA does not believe that the deal Dow is offering goes far enough,” said Ralph Dollhopf, associate director for the Superfund division of EPA's Regional Office in Chicago. “EPA simply will not accept any deal that is not comprehensive.”

David Keplar, Dow's senior vice president, said he didn't understand why the agency decided to end the negotiations so “abruptly.”

“We were prepared to commit immense human and financial resources on early, comprehensive actions, all in full compliance with EPA guidance and regulations,” Keplar said. “This was a real opportunity to actually accelerate resolving the situation; now we're faced with additional barriers and delays.”

Dow emphasized that it remained committed to “clearly communicating and working with [the] community, EPA, the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ) and other key stakeholders in this process.”

Dow spokesperson John Musser told Occupational Hazards that Dow submitted a “good faith” proposal Dec. 10, following negotiation discussions with EPA and MDEQ officials. EPA then extended negotiations for an additional 30 days.

On the day they were notified of EPA's decision to end discussions, Dow was ready to submit a modified proposal, Musser said.

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