Michigan Files Lawsuit for Hazardous Waste Violations

The Michigan Attorney General's office files suit against a company alleging numerous violations of waste and air pollution laws. The attorney general is seeking as much as $4 million in fines.

Michigan Attorney General Jennifer M. Granholm and Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) Director Russell J. Harding announced that a lawsuit has been filed asking the Ingham County Circuit Court to fine Radian International LLC for numerous violations of Michigan's hazardous waste and air pollution laws (Parts 111 and 55 of the Natural Resources and Environmental Protection Act) at the Dow Chemical facility in Midland. Radian was hired by Dow to dry and safely burn hazardous wastes from the Dow wastewater treatment facility in Midland.

The alleged violations stem from releases of dioxin-laden waste at the Dow facility in 1997 and 1998. The attorney general's office and the DEQ are seeking statutory penalties of $25,000 per day for the hazardous waste violations and $10,000 per day for the air pollution violations. The total fine could exceed $4 million.

Dow entered into a consent order with the DEQ on Nov. 19, 1998, to immediately clean up the wastes at the site and to address any immediate actions needed to protect human health and the environment.

"Cleanup was the first priority. But when a company puts its workers' health, the community's health and the health of the environment at risk, just cleaning up the problem is not enough. By asking the court to assess strict civil penalties, we're sending a message that the state's law enforcement community won't look the other way when it comes to breaking environmental laws," said Granholm.

According to Granholm's complaint, numerous defects in Radian's system for drying and burning hazardous wastes caused black, powdery wastes to regularly be discharged into the air and leaked onto the ground and roadways at the Dow facility. Granholm alleges that employees were - on three different occasions - exposed to the wastes when accidents or fires occurred at the site. Further, Granholm alleges that on Nov. 13, 1998, an elementary school bus transporting schoolchildren on a tour of the Dow facility drove through the waste material, potentially exposing the children to dangerous chemicals.

Inspections and tests by the DEQ confirmed that the wastes contained high levels of dioxin, a human carcinogen known to cause skin lesions, birth defects and reproductive problems.

The DEQ is negotiating a separate agreement with Dow to resolve its involvement with violations at the site. Negotiations with Radian over the penalty issue have been unsuccessful, which is why the lawsuit was filed.

edited by Sandy Smith ([email protected])

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