Environment Picture

Editorial: EPA ouster a sad chapter in Dow/dioxin mess

MDEQ, Gov. Granholm, Lt. Gov. Cherry must fill the void, force Dow to clean up its toxic mess
When Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Region IV Administrator Mary Gade was forced from office in early May, it ignited a firestorm of controversy. Gade had aggressively tried to force Dow Chemical Co. to clean up waterways that have for decades been laced with toxic dioxin from the company’s Midland, MI plant. She blamed her ouster on ruffling too many feathers at Dow. That allegation seems to fit a longstanding pattern of political muzzling of science and scientists by the presidential administration of George W. Bush.
Gade worked with the Michigan Environmental Council on a 2002 report, Greening the Governments, which documented the uncoordinated and patchwork efforts of Great Lakes states to address key environmental issues.
We know her as a committed and passionate professional.
But her ouster was not a huge surprise to observers who understand that Dow’s influence extends internationally, and that many local, state and federal elected officials are beholden to the chemical giant. Dow contributes heavily to political campaigns as well as charitable and community causes in and around Midland. It’s been a vital part of the community for more than a century. That’s part of why community leaders and politicians are wary of biting the hand that feeds them, even if it is responsible for the worst unresolved toxic mess in the state.
The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ), which has shown promising signs that it is willing to require Dow to meet its cleanup responsibilities, needs to move more forcefully to fill the void left by Gade’s departure. And Gov. Jennifer Granholm and Lt. Gov. John Cherry need to move beyond tepid and calculated actions to more vigorously and publicly support their DEQ’s oversight of Dow.
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