Dow dioxin deferment dead 

Year 2003 is glorious already for Midland residents, thanks to the demise of a last-minute deal between the state Department of Environmental Quality and the community’s hometown industrial polluter, Dow Chemical Co. Midland activist Diane Hebert says the victory shows that community activism works. “There wasn’t a day that went by that we didn’t work on this. And we actually did it,” says Hebert of the large, diverse group that banded together to fight Dow and the DEQ. “We know it’s not the end of the war. But God, it feels good to win.” A proposed “consent order” between the DEQ and Dow would have, among other things, increased allowable levels of toxic, cancer-causing dioxin in Midland and freed Dow from much of its cleanup duties and costs. The order would have hiked allowable dioxin levels in residential soil up to 831 parts per trillion, compared to the state’s current 90 parts per trillion limit. Dioxin contamination from Dow’s Midland plant exists in the city and along a 20-mile stretch of the Tittabawassee River floodplain downstream from Midland. Former DEQ Director Russ Harding was pushing Dow’s proposed deal with explicit orders to get it signed before the clock struck midnight on Republican state rule. Luckily for Midland, public scrutiny (fueled by “Shadow of Dow,” Metro Times, March 27-April 2, 2002), the Environmental Protection Agency and former Attorney General Jennifer Granholm’s office got in the way. The EPA in November commented against the order, and the AG’s office advised DEQ that it was illegal and inappropriate. As negotiations heated up and changes to the original order were made, Granholm’s office began to flex some muscle to oppose the consent order. E-mails from Mike Leffler, assistant attorney general, and Robert Reichel, who works with Leffler, were leaked by someone in DEQ and posted on the Ecology Center Web site ( The E-mails rip the proposal, suggesting DEQ acted “arbitrarily and capriciously” to adopt a “fatally flawed” and fundamentally “illegal” document.

Now that the deal is dead, Midland residents and state environmentalists are holding their breath to see what Steven Chester, the DEQ chief appointed by new Democratic Gov. Granholm, will do with Dow. Environmentalists are hopeful about Chester, who’s enforced environmental laws in Wayne County and for the EPA. David Dempsey of the Michigan Environmental Council says he met Chester as a fellow environmentalist in the ’80s and is impressed with his ethics. “I don’t think we’ll see any secret deals or things like that. I’m confident there will be no waiving of pollution standards to assist Dow,” says Dempsey. Alex Sagady, one of Michigan’s most unforgiving environmentalists, agrees it’s a bright new day. “He’s an ideal choice,” says Sagady of Chester. “I know his work … he’s going to be an excellent director.”

Send comments to

We welcome readers to submit letters regarding articles and content in Detroit Metro Times. Letters should be a minimum of 150 words, refer to content that has appeared on Detroit Metro Times, and must include the writer's full name, address, and phone number for verification purposes. No attachments will be considered. Writers of letters selected for publication will be notified via email. Letters may be edited and shortened for space.

Email us at

Support Local Journalism.
Join the Detroit Metro Times Press Club

Local journalism is information. Information is power. And we believe everyone deserves access to accurate independent coverage of their community and state. Our readers helped us continue this coverage in 2020, and we are so grateful for the support.

Help us keep this coverage going in 2021. Whether it's a one-time acknowledgement of this article or an ongoing membership pledge, your support goes to local-based reporting from our small but mighty team.

Join the Metro Times Press Club for as little as $5 a month.

Read the Digital Print Issue

January 19, 2022

View more issues


Never miss a beat

Sign Up Now

Subscribe now to get the latest news delivered right to your inbox.

Best Things to Do In Detroit

© 2022 Detroit Metro Times - Contact Us

Website powered by Foundation