By Michelle Hurd Riddick, Lone Tree Council
The Saginaw News chose an unfortunate headline (“Cleanup bill nixed”) to lead their coverage of Governor Granholm’s (MI) recent veto of a bill that would have let polluters off the hook for dioxin cleanup in the Tittabawassee River watershed. House Bill 4617 is anything BUT a cleanup bill. This Trojan horse piece of legislation is not a cleanup bill and the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) rightly defined it as a “Polluter Relief Act.” In paragraph three of her press release on the veto, the Governor points out the devil hiding in the detail of the legislation.
Governor Granholm states,“In addition to these deficiencies, House Bill 4617 is poorly drafted, containing incomplete citations to administrative rules. These technical problems were identified by the Department of Environmental Quality yet were ignored during the legislative process. These technical omissions have consequences. By referencing the incorrect rules, this legislation would foreclose the ability of the state to protect surface water from contamination, increasing health risks for homeowners and Michigan’s environment.”
The failure to include the administrative rules in the bill would have eliminated the soil and sediment contact criteria for dioxin.With the sweep of the legislative pen these bills would eliminate the 90 parts per thousand soil contact criteria for dioxin.
These incomplete citations and administrative rule omissions in HB 4617 were not limited to just dioxin. It includes a lengthy list of chemicals harmful to people and all biota. One section omitted lists the rules (exposure/transport pathways) that DEQ must consider in a generic residential cleanup.The omission of the rules for soil direct contact and sediment cleanup would prevent the DEQ from considering any of these criteria for generic residential cleanups. In addition, the omission of another rule could mean the DEQ would be unable to require response activity to address other risks (such as food chain contamination) that are not ordinarily factored into generic cleanup criteria.
Michigan is the only state entirely in the watershed of the Great Lakes. Either the Great Lakes are a national treasure to be protected or they are not. Either public health matters or it does not. Governor Granholm did not nix a cleanup bill. She defended public health and our water resources.
DEQ and EPA sampling demonstrate that dioxin is pervasive in very high concentrations along 52 miles of river and floodplain in the Saginaw Bay Watershed, Michigan’s largest watershed. These rivers empty into the Saginaw Bay of Lake Huron. For more information go to www.trwnews.net.
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