Dow reaches $77M pollution settlement

    Midland, Michigan with Dow Chemical plant and headquarters, 2010 | Doc Searls, Wikimedia Commons

    Dow Chemical Co. will settle a lawsuit with federal, state and tribal governments for $77 million worth of projects over decades of hazardous waste entering local habitats, the Michigan Department of Natural Resources (DNR) announced Friday.

    Waste products, including toxins like dioxin, were released by the Dow facility in Midland into the Tittabawassee River and its floodplains in Midland, Saginaw and Bay counties since its founding in 1897.

    Attorney General Dana Nessel
    Dana Nessel after a House Judiciary Committee hearing, Feb. 19, 2019 | Ken Coleman

    “This settlement has been more than a decade in the making by a combined team of state, federal and tribal partners working together for the benefit of Michigan’s environment and precious natural resources,” Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel said in a press release. “I look forward to seeing these projects implemented to the benefit of the communities and ecosystems impacted by Dow’s contamination.”

    The agreement is subject to public comment and approval in federal court.

    The settlement will help to restore fish and wildlife habitat disturbed by hazardous waste. The public will have opportunities to comment on the settlement and the allocation of funds.

    Several groups and departments interested in the restoration of the area are acting as natural resource trustees and have drafted a plan for using the funds from the settlement.

    Midland | Image by Aberro Creative from Pixabay

    Trustees include: the DNR; Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy (EGLE); the Department of the Interior’s U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and Bureau of Indian Affairs; the Michigan attorney general’s office; and the Saginaw Chippewa Indian Tribe of Michigan.

    The trustees will hold a public informational meeting to answer questions and discuss plans at 7 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 21 at the Four Points by Sheraton Saginaw, 4960 Towne Centre Rd. in Saginaw.

    The settlement exists outside of Dow’s current efforts to clean-up the area, under the direction of EGLE and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. These cleanup efforts will continue, along with the new endeavors from the settlement.

    Projects from the settlement identified by the three counties are restoring fishing and wetlands, creating hiking and biking trails, expanding boating access and providing protections of a green corridor along the Tittabawassee River. 

    Daniel Eichinger

    The settlement allows $5 million to be allocated to projects to be decided on by the public and $10 million to handle the long-term aspects of restoration such as maintenance and monitoring.

    “The trustees are working to compensate the public for past and expected future losses to recreational fishing, park use and hunting as a result of public health advisories issued because of releases from Dow’s Midland facility,” Michigan DNR Director Dan Eichinger said in a press release. “We appreciate being at the table to ensure that the citizens of Michigan are appropriately compensated for resource damage, and we look forward to continuing to improve the natural resources, wildlife and fisheries opportunities for people within these areas.”

    Anna Liz Nichols
    Anna Liz Nichols covers criminal justice, the environment and the Legislature. She has reported for several publications, including MLive and Michigan State University’s award-winning student paper, the State News, where she covered the many tendrils of the Larry Nassar sexual abuse scandal. She is finishing up a degree in journalism and environmental studies at Michigan State University, graduating May 2020.