Action will follow study of actual risk to public health

MIDLAND — Gov. Jennifer Granholm has opted for sound science over regulatory impulse in agreeing with the Mackinac Center for Public Policy to forestall a declaration of 9,000 Midland properties as hazardous waste sites. Further study of the actual risk to public health will first be undertaken.

"Both the community of Midland and the state as a whole will benefit by basing any cleanup orders on a study of actual human exposure," said Russ Harding, senior environmental policy analyst for the Mackinac Center for Public Policy. "Otherwise, regulators would simply be guessing whether a public health risk even exists."

At issue are dioxin levels on residential properties affecting half of Midland’s residents. Soil analyses indicate some dioxin levels in excess of state and federal limits. But Harding stated in a column published Sunday in the Midland Daily News that "No rational decision [on a cleanup plan] can possibly be made until a study of actual exposure levels is undertaken."

Harding is the former director of the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality. His column is available at http://www.mackinac.org/6662.

Dioxin is a generic term referring to 210 chemical compounds with similar structures. Dioxin is a byproduct of industrial combustion, as well as natural sources such as volcanoes and forest fires. Emission controls have virtually eliminated dioxin releases from industrial sources. The principal source in Midland's case is believed to be incineration at Dow Chemical Co. decades ago before pollution control technology was in place.

"State regulators do have discretion in the type and extent of cleanup actions required where dioxin levels exceed the Michigan standard," said Harding. "An issue of this importance demanded guidance from the governor," he said.

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