No Trespassing: Saginaw\'s New Toxic River Dredge Facility Frames The Most Important Michigan Environmental Battle in Decades

Posted In: News, Investigative Reporting, Local,   From Issue 635   By: Brett Cherry

12th April, 2007     0

Driving down Marlbourne Road, you are confronted by a great divide between nature and industry.  From a distance, Marlbourne Road seems to dead end within the grey heart of the R & R cement plant, then veers sharply to the right.  On the right: large mounds of dirt and rock behind a steel-linked fence.  On the left: pristine wilderness of the Crow Island wildlife game habitat. 

Traveling further, one is met with farmland that stretches wide like an open mouth taking in the sky.  Further still, the Saginaw River comes into view, along with varieties of birds including ducks, geese and eagles. 

Prior to cultivation, the land resembled the lush wildlife refuge of the Crow Island wildlife refuge nearby. Houses soon appear along Marlbourne Road and deer just beyond them.  No longer divided by industry and nature, one is present before a harmonious relationship between nature and community; until you reach the end of Marlbourne Road. 

Across the road from the Zilwaukee neighborhood lays an 11-foot tall dike that forms a perimeter around the farmland.  Trenches below the dike are dug deep, now holding water from melted snow and spring rains.  But the dike was not only built to prevent flooding, as it is to contain 3.1 million cubic yards of dredged dioxin contaminated sediment and water from the Saginaw River for the next 20 years.

The divide between industry and nature continues where it had left off.  

Marshlands make good toxic waste facilities?

James Koski, Saginaw Public Works Commissioner had the job of finding a new site to store contaminated dredge spoils from the Saginaw River.  In Saginaw's "Vision for 2020" dredging the Saginaw River to clear the shipping channel for Saginaw's local businesses was at the top of the list. 

In order for the dredging to begin, a site suitable for storing river sediment containing dioxin, PCBs and other contaminants was needed.  Once the site was discovered, Saginaw County would be its sponsor.  Criteria for the site was set by the Army Corps of Engineers, who is responsible for clearing the navigational channel of the river.  "The site was chosen because it met the criteria, [is] less intrusive on the environment and the site geology was such that it was impermeable," said Koski.  

Dredging the Saginaw River is nothing new for the Corps, as they have dredged the Saginaw River and other rivers used for transportation in Michigan before.  Dredged sediment from the river was shipped to a waste facility in the Saginaw Bay.  Transporting sediment dredged from the northern part of the river to the Saginaw Bay was too costly, so a more economically viable site with little to no environmental impact was needed. 

The search for a site to host the Dredge Material Disposal Facility (DMDF) began 27 years ago.  A 278-acre drained wetland near Zilwaukee and the Crow Island State Game Area was evaluated amongst other sites.

 According to Terry Long, Project Coordinator of the DMDF, more than 30 sites were evaluated by the Army Corps of Engineers for the location of the facility.  "Ultimately, the river needed to be dredged in order to provide for shipping," said Long.  Other sites evaluated include an old GM landfill or "brown field" and farm land near Buena Vista Township.  According to Koski, both the GM facility and the Buena Vista property were rejected because they did not meet the requirements of the Corps. 

When Koski asked GM if Saginaw County could use the facility for the dredge spoils, they were concerned about liability for storing dredged contaminants from the river.

After the Corps evaluated the site, they found it incapable of storing the amount of dredged material.  Koski says the Buena Vista property was also problematic due to an active railroad along the west side of the property and a power line running through the site.  The Buena Vista site was only 300 acres; not nearly enough land for the river waste facility and wetland mitigation ordered by the state. 

Since the Buena Vista farm acreage, like the site near Crow Island, was zoned as wetland by the state of Michigan, there would not have been enough land left for mitigation.   "We would have had to find other property to mitigate wetland ," said Koski.  The site in Frankenlust Township was more attractive to the Corps, mostly because of its clay bottom. 

Koski says beneath the site lies a dense layer of impermeable clay.  "That's what makes it good marsh land because the water seeps into it," he said.  Although the site was drained wetland, formerly used for farming by the Bierline family, it was still considered wetland by the state of Michigan. 

The county was required to give the state 275 acres of wetland from the purchased site for mitigation.  Once the site was purchased, construction of the facility soon began in May 2005.  Meanwhile, some residents and officials of Zilwaukee and Frankenlust Township were outraged after being barred from decision-making processes regarding the site.

No concerned citizens allowed

With construction of the DMDF scheduled, public hearings took place in Saginaw and Zilwaukee, where residents could come and speak their peace.  One concerned citizen of Zilwaukee who considered the public hearings a kick-in-the-face of democracy was Donn Rajanimi.   He feels the democratic processes granted to individual U.S citizens and community government has been bypassed to allow the implementation of the DMDF.  "I think we have some say in this, but no we don't! We're fighting the county, the state and the federal government", said Rajaniemi

Rajaniemi volunteered as Flood Coordinator for Frankenlust Township in order to do what he felt was his duty to the community -- to protect the 14-family neighborhood on Marlbourne Road from imminent disaster. 

Rajaniemi, a former Marine Corps veteran who moved to the end of Marlbourne Road in 2002, is tenacious in his pursuit to ensure the safety of the residents of Zilwaukee from the threat of future floodwaters.  Prior to construction of the facility, with sophisticated laser equipment, Rajaniemi measured the approximate height of the flood that took place 20 years ago.
According to Rajanimi's findings, 1.7 million cubic yards of water flooded the area in 1986 at the present location of the facility; or "14 Pontiac silver dome-sized stadiums each, 4 feet 3 inches deep." 

Koski believes the occurrence of another severe flood is highly unlikely.  "I got a letter from Bierline, as his family farmed it for 50 years and they said the only time the water ever flooded there was during 1986," he said Koski argues that the flood of 1986 did not top the existing dikes and the new dikes, standing five feet above the original, are built out of clay, preventing future flooding.

Rajaniemi is concerned that if a large flood does occur, the facility would displace much of the floodwaters causing potential damage to surrounding communities. 

According to Rajanimi, the farmland near Buena Vista seems a far more suitable site for the facility because it was left untouched by the disastrous flood of 86'.  While Koski claims the site simply would not have been big enough for the facility, Rajaniemi says, "They never seriously looked at it."  A major difference between both Saginaw County sites is the one in Frankenlust Township is zoned by FEMA as a "critical floodplain storage area."  Koski and the Army Corps of Engineers applied to FEMA for a "Letter of Map Revision."    The National Flood Insurance Program of FEMA replied, requesting more detailed information about the site in order to approve the revision.  

Hilda Dijak, Supervisor of Frankenlust Township also petitioned FEMA, stating the communities of Frankenlust and Zilwaukee were not asked for its approval of the facility, and that Saginaw County's application was ill prepared. 

FEMA specifically states, "All requests for revisions for National Flood Insurance Program maps must be made through the impacted community."  According to Dijak, Koski did not ask for her signature on the map revision application, signing his own name instead.  Koski also listed in error Portsmouth Township as the affected community in the application.  Dijak never heard of the application until Portsmouth's supervisor forwarded her documents from FEMA requesting her approval. 

Dijak says the entire ordeal was twisted from the beginning.  A long line of Michigan politicians was forming at her door when she first became aware of plans for the DMDF.  "I wasn't just visited, I was hounded!" said Dijak.

  Jeff Martin, Governor Granholm's liaison, was one of many officials who spoke with Dijak about the dredge facility.  With so many political powers involved with the site, FEMA has no political sway in the zoning of the flood plain.  FEMA's authority is acknowledged by Koski, but not necessary for the Army Corps of Engineers to finish completion of the facility.  Michigan is exempted from FEMA regulations and is considered "home-ruled" by the federal government.

Koski said he is still awaiting approval from FEMA. 

But the permission of Zilwaukee and Frankenlust townships would never be granted.    

Prior to construction of the DMDF, Rajaniemi said he obtained permission from the DNR to enter the site in order to measure past flood levels.  He was soon met with backlash from Saginaw County, who sent Rajaniemi a number of warning letters insisting he would be sent to jail if he continued to take flood measurements on county property.

 "They refused to allow me to look around, that's my jurisdiction, to protect my community from flood hazards," said Rajaniemi. 
He also discovered something more of peculiar interest -- a two-foot diameter pipe installed by the Army Corps of Engineer's at the edge of the river across from the DMDF.  "They said the pipe was only there in the event of a major rainstorm or flood event and it would be just a trickle if ever, that trickle turns out to be 1.3 million gallons per day", he said Rajaniemi found the pipe measured two feet in length, which would double the Army Corps estimate of drainage to 2.6 million gallons of untreated water flowing back into the river per day.

Koski says the water will be filtered through "three cells" at the facility.  "For the betterments we put three separate cells so it settles the material out from the water and most of the contaminants involved affix themselves with the material," said Koski.  Koski says, at the very least, the water returning to the river is "going to be as dirty as it was." 

Rajaniemi is not the only resident on Marlbourne Road concerned with the DMDF to be slapped with a lawsuit by the county.  Koski sued Zilwaukee Township Clerk, Pat Bradt, after attempting to attend a construction meeting she felt should involve local communities. 

According to Bradt, The Lake Shore Group, a contractor hired to construct the DMDF, notified her of the meeting.  Pat and her husband Dave Bradt, Supervisor of Zilwaukee Township, attempted to attend the construction meeting just down the road from their home on Marlbourne Road.  Upon arriving at the site, they were both promptly asked to leave.  Bradt says any cooperation with Zilwaukee Township from Saginaw County and the Corps is non-existent.  Other Melbourne Road residents agree.  
Bruce and Sue Cameron have lived in the secluded Zilwaukee neighborhood for 12 years.  Prior to the construction of the DMDF, the Camerons believed they had discovered a backwoods paradise: a two-story scenic home between the Saginaw River and the Crow Island state game refuge. 

"If you like the outdoors, it's a great place to be," said Bruce Cameron.  The Camerons, who live across the street from the DMDF, used to spend days hiking through the area now occupied by the dredge facility to watch the eagles nest near the river.  They say the site was once attracted varieties of birds, especially waterfowl.  The Camerons recall watching mergansers, geese and herons at the current location of the dredge facility. 

Despite the Corps claiming the facility will not attract wildlife, wild birds often look for areas of still water to settle in, toxic or not.  The Camerons first heard of plans to construct the DMDF after receiving an "anonymous flyer" on their doorstep that claimed the farm landowners were selling their land for the dredge facility.  After confirming what they feared to be true, Bruce and Sue Cameron, along with other Zilwaukee residents living in the neighborhood, formed Citizens Against Toxic Substances (CATS) in 2003. 

CATS raised money to fund litigation against Saginaw County and the Army Corps of Engineers - the first of many legal attempts against the construction of the facility.     Unfortunately, CATS was unable to continue litigation due to high attorney costs involved. 

"Ordinary citizens can't fund that kind of legal help when the county, the Corps and the state all use tax payer money for their attorneys," said Sue Cameron. 

Instead, CATS supported The Lone Tree Council to help bring their case to federal court.  CATS was not only formed to fund environmental lawyers, but to incite Saginaw county officials to seriously consider adverse impacts of the DMDF.  Bruce Cameron mentions the Saginaw Board of Commissioners in particular, who accepted Koski's proposal to have the DMDF be sponsored by the county.  He says the commissioners paid more attention to the "ten commandments in the court house" or giving Steve Colbert the key to the city of Saginaw, than addressing the DMDF fully.  "It took them five seconds to table what could be a huge liability issue for the entire population of Saginaw County", said Bruce Cameron. 

Sue Cameron, who is Treasurer of Zilwaukee Township, says future costs of the facility could result in an economic backlash for the county. 

"The economic benefit is not there if you consider the tax that is going to be required to pay for all of this," she said. 
The Camerons agree with the Lone Tree Council that an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) should have been completed.  An EIS would shed further light on whether the facility is in violation of federal environmental laws such as the Clean Water Act.

The National Wildlife Federation and Lone Tree Council claim exactly that by appealing the issuance of the 401 Certification by the DEQ.    Both environmental groups say water entering back into the Saginaw River should be treated, since it could contain contaminated sediment. 

The Lone Tree Council has been at the forefront of investigating the environmental impact of dioxin in Saginaw and Bay Counties, exposing one of the known carcinogen's birthplaces at Dow Chemical facilities in Midland.  Dioxin is the underlying contaminant affecting all matters having to do with dredging the Saginaw River, but how toxic is it?   

How toxic is dioxin?

The relative toxicity of dioxin is hard to pin down.  Dioxin refers to 210 different chemical compounds, according to the DEQ. Dioxin is tasteless, odorless and often harbored in soil from industrial processes where it is eventually consumed by animals.                  

Dioxin does not dissolve in water and bonds to organic and inorganic materials around it. Humans who consume contaminated animals, dairy products, water or dust accumulate dioxin in their fat cells and bloodstream.                                         

Exposure to small amounts of dioxin over a long period of time could lead to adverse health effects. According to the EPA, humans appear tolerant to high levels of dioxin, but cases of cancer, chloroacne, neurological disorders, and other ailments in humans and animals have been attributed to dioxin exposure.                                 

Most scientific studies of dioxin use animals. Human studies make up only a fraction of the data used to set dioxin exposure limits.  Wildlife are extremely susceptible to dioxin contamination.  This led to the DEQ posting warning signs along the Tittabawassee River discouraging the consumption of deer, fish and other animals who accumulate high levels of dioxin over time.                        

Dioxin originates from a variety of industrial sources, especially herbicides and chlorinated manufacturing processes.

Miniscule amounts of dioxin are also present in many consumer items, from cigarettes to bleached paper and tampons. Most people have at least some level of dioxin in their bodies. One of the most toxic dioxin compounds is known as TCDD and was used in Agent Orange. Agent Orange is an herbicide manufactured by a number of chemical manufacturers, including the Dow Chemical Company, and was used in the Vietnam War as a defoliant.                                

TCDD is defined as "probably carcinogenic to humans" by the EPA, while the World Health Organization labels TCCD as "carcinogenic to humans" and is classified amongst other known carcinogens, such as asbestos, arsenic, and many others.                    
Exposure to Agent Orange has been at least a contributing factor in a wide range of cancers and other diseases, such as diabetes. According to the Institute of Medicine (IOM), a non-governmental organization with the National Academy of Sciences, Vietnam War veterans with the highest levels of dioxin in their bloodstream after being exposed to Agent Orange, showed a 47 percent increase in diabetes.                                      

Since the term "dioxin" refers to a number of different toxic compounds, studies on public health risks use two different factors to measure dioxin toxicity: the Toxic Equivalency Factor (TEF) and Toxicity Equivalent (TEQ). Each dioxin compound is assigned a TEF according to its relative toxicity to TCDD, with TCDD assigned the value of 1.  

For example, 1,2,3,7,8,9-HXCDD is prevalent throughout the northern Saginaw River and has a TEF of  0.1.  After multiplying the TEF by the mass of each compound and adding them together, the TEQ is obtained.        

The threshold for public exposure to dioxin in the state of Michigan is 90 ppt TEQ.  Michigan's average dioxin soil concentration is 6.3 ppt.                  

River sediment samples taken by the Army Corps of Engineers from the northern navigational channel of the Saginaw River varied widely. Some samples revealed no TEQ whatsoever, while one sample was 8,187 TEQ. Other samples taken revealed a range of disproportionate findings: 287.93 ppt, 5,204 ppt, 27.14ppt, 406.56ppt TEQ, the list goes on and on.                    

The Corps derived an average dioxin concentration of the navigational channel of 321 ppt and plan to avoid dredging more highly contaminated areas of the river.

Environmental impacts unresolved and in litigation

Prior to dredging, the river sediment must first be tested by the Army Corps of Engineers for high levels of contaminants, especially dioxin. 

The Lone Tree Council and Environment Michigan, argue that the Corps' Environmental Assessment (EA) does not address the overall impact this facility may have on the environment and public health.  The Corps has set no official threshold on dioxin-contaminated soil for the facility.  The limit on  dioxins stored at the facility is currently being debated in federal court.  The outcome of the federal lawsuit represented by the Environmental Law Center will determine whether or not the Corps should complete an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) of the dredge facility.

According to the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), whenever a federal agency takes an action that could affect the human environment it must consider impacts through an EIS.  The design of the EIS under NEPA is inclusive of the public, something that individual citizens and environmental groups alike feel was severely lacking in political processes leading up to the construction of the DMDF. 

The consideration of alternative sites is also central to an EIS along with detailed investigations of environmental impacts the action would have.  Stephanie Matheny an attorney with the Environmental Law Center, who is representing Environment Michigan and the Lone Tree Council, believes an EIS should have been done, despite an Environmental Assessment (EA) completed by the Corps prior to constructing the facility. 

The Environmental Law Center claims the Army Corps of Engineers are in violation of the National Environmental Protection Act.  "Our claim is that they should have prepared an EIS under NEPA, "said Mathney. 

The Corps' EA briefly addressed impacts the DMDF could have on the environment, and the communities of Frankenlust and Zilwaukee.  The EA lead to a Find of No Significant Impact (FONSI) allowing the Corps to move forward with construction of the dredge facility, after water permits were obtained from the state. 

The Lone Tree Council calls the EA completed by the Corps a "drive-by" environmental assessment.  Terry Miller, Chairman of the Lone Tree Council, views the Corps' EA as "self-serving" and unsuitable for taking into account the wide range of environmental impacts involved. 

"They did not do an adequate examination of the areas that normally would be addressed in an Environmental Impact Statement," he said.  The EPA also originally disagreed with the Corps signing of a FONSI according to a letter to Les Wygem.  The EPA was critical of the Corps' selective dredging that would "leave highly elevated concentrations of dioxins in an unstable positions."  The EPA also said the DMDF could accept only low concentrations of dioxins and that a threshold must be set."

On the other hand, Les Wygem, Chief of the Corps' Environmental Analysis Branch, finds the site safe from causing any potential hazards to the environment.  In fact, Wygem says dredging the river sediment laced with dioxin is a "side benefit" of the disposal facility. 

 "This material is coming out of the aquatic environment and put safely in this confined disposal area," said Wygem.   According to the Corps' analysis, dioxins attach to small particles and are confined to the river sediment.  Wygem says one of the main differences between an EA and an EIS is the time involved. 

An EIS could take one year or more to complete, since it requires a far more detailed investigation involving multiple drafts of close evaluations of the environmental impact of the DMDF.  The Corps examined the geology of the entire 278-acre site.  Core samples were taken throughout the site for review by the DEQ. 

There was an exception to the Corps' evaluation of the site. According to Koski the site was re-zoned in order to avoid sand lenses 18-20 feet deep.  Contaminants could seep through these lenses over a period of time into groundwater below.  By avoiding the penetrable sand lenses, the Corps considered the site was sufficient for containing dioxin, but the DEQ felt otherwise.  

The DRQ recommended "betterments" for the facility that were funded by businesses part of the Saginaw River Alliance and the Dow Chemical Company. The betterments include a "slurry wall" layered over the facility.  "We required them to construct the slurry wall because of sand seams that were identified as part of the hydro geological investigation," said Jim Sygo, Deputy Director of the DEQ Hazardous Materials Division. 

Since the clay provides an impermeable layer to contain the dioxins, Sygo says an artificial liner is not needed.  According to Sygo, the clay used for the slurry wall is bentomite, which expands when in contact with water, making it highly impermeable.      

The addition of the clay slurry wall makes the Corps and DEQ confident that the facility will prevent contaminants from escaping into the environment.  Wygem says dredge spoils from the river will enter the site layer by layer, beginning with the most contaminated sediment first.  The facility will then be capped with the least contaminated soil on top. 

As for risk of animals entering the site, Wygem asserts it "is not going to be very attractive to wildlife."

Sygo says many of the methods used for reducing impacts on the environment, including those mentioned by Wygem, are still in "draft." Until methods for dealing with these environmental impacts are agreed upon, the Corps will not be able to store contaminated river sediment at the facility. 

It's a matter of whether we can obtain and provide approval for the 'Operation and Maintenance Plan' that they put together," said Wygem.  Another environmental risk not taken into account by the Corps is preventing dioxin from migrating further downstream when dredging the river.

"That's why it takes so long to do something like this," says Wygem, who is overseeing Dow's dredging of toxic "hot spots" in the Tittabawassee River this spring.  Dow is required by the DEQ to prevent dioxins from scattering when dredging the river.  According to the EPA, the Saginaw River and Bay are an Area of Concern, meaning it is one of the most polluted areas in the Great Lakes. 

Since the Corps is not primarily concerned with the method used for dredging the river, they could inadvertently cause dioxins to travel further downstream into Lake Huron. 

The EPA encouraged the Corps to further assess the disturbance of contaminated sediment in the river.  Alternative sites are not something being re-evaluated by the Corps under their EA.  This is another reason why an EIS would be more appropriate for the action taken by the Corps.  Matheny says the Corps also did not properly assess the environmental impact of alternative sites except for the Buena Vista site. 

According to the Environmental Law Center, wetlands were not "adequately mitigated." 

"All they've done is get some deed restrictions on land that wasn't going to be developed anyway," said Mathney.  Mathney adds that the Corps and Saginaw County are not providing additional floodplain storage to make up for the 278 acres of flood storage used by the DMDF.  

The potential threat to residents living on Marlbourne Road is also of concern in the plaintiffs' case.  If the area were to flood again, as it did in 1986, where would the water go? 

"The most likely place seems to be in between the river and those dikes, where people live; these flood waters are going to contain dioxins," said Mathney. 

Environmental organizations throughout Michigan are concerned about the obscure level of dioxins to be stored at the facility and its environmental impact.  The demand for further investigation of how dredged dioxin contaminants stored at the DMDF could impact the environment does not seem farfetched.  Matheny says the last EIS of navigational dredging completed by the Corps was done in the 1970s.  According to the Environmental Law Center, no assessments of dioxin contaminants were made at that time. 

"The Corps say they don't need to do any further environmental review, because it's just the same project," said Matheny.  An EIS isn't the only matter addressed in court, but also the possibility of the Dow Chemical Company having access to the dredge facility on Marlbourne Road. 

Dow's 'Long Shadow' over Saginaw

Dow's toxic legacy is cast over the Tri-Cities.  Dioxins in both the Saginaw and Tittabawassee rivers are mostly by-products from Dow waste disposal processes involving the combustion of chlorinated compounds. 

Dow was ordered by the DEQ to dredge river spoils throughout the Tittabawassee and Saginaw Rivers.  Soil samples from the DEQ reveal extremely high concentrations of dioxin, some over 100,000 ppt in the Tittabawassee alone.  Notes from the "Operation and Maintenance Plan" meetings of the DEQ and the Army Corps of Engineers reveal the inclusion of "Dow Chemical Representatives".  Despite Dow's presence at the Corps' private meetings, Koski and members of the Corps ensure that Dow has no access to the dredge facility. 

Frankenlust Township responded with disbelief.  Frankenlust Township against The Corps and Saginaw County led by attorney James Hammond, included a series of depositions given by James A. Koski, Les Wygem and Jim Sygo.  According to the depositions, Koski received counsel from Dow Consultant, Jack Bales, who offered assistance in "technical areas" of the Corps' Operation and Management Plan to Koski.  Sygo said, "The design of the facility is sufficient to contain those materials from Dow."  Other documents show that Dow may have planned to gain access to the facility all along.   

Emails from EPA officials in Chicago confirm that Dow contributed funding for the DMDF with "the consideration" that non-navigational dredge sediments could be stored there.   

Dow is currently designing a remediation plan overseen by the DEQ for dredging and storing contaminated sediments from both rivers. Saginaw County's DMDF will already accomplish what Dow has been stalling to do since the multi-billion dollar chemical corporation was first ordered to remediate dioxin contaminated river sediment.  The most difficult obstacle to understanding Dow's actual or potential involvement in obtaining access to the DMDF is secrecy.  According to Matheny, any negotiations taking place between Dow, DEQ, EPA and the Army Corps of Engineers is behind the curtain of a confidentiality agreement. 

"We the public don't know what they're talking about,"  she said.  Tim Novak, the only member of the Saginaw Board of Commissioners to seriously question the possibility of Dow gaining access to the dredge facility, proposed a resolution to ensure that the facility does not fall into the wrong hands.  "I asked for a resolution defining the area from which the spoils could be taken and no third party involvement," said Novak.  Novak says the county's legal counsel told the Board of Commissioners, "stay away from it."

The resolution was turned down. 

When the Board voted to accept the DMDF, they helped make taxpayers of Saginaw County the caretakers of the dredge facility.  If Dow or another party had access to the facility and something went wrong, "the tax payers of Saginaw are liable," said Novak.  Novak is concerned about the future of the DMDF and is planning another resolution to bring before the Board in the near future.

Dow has not obtained access to the DMDF to dispose of dredges from the Tittabawassee River, but they have claimed some of the dirt from the site. 

According to Pat Bradt, last summer four companies were hired to haul 260,740 cubic yards of dirt excavated from the site in order to make room for river dredges.  Bradt says she trailed one of the trucks traveling from the site down an inner urban road that passes through the Crow Island wildlife refuge.  Bradt followed the truck all the way to Midland where she watched it dump its payload of rich, black topsoil from the site at the Dow baseball diamond. 

Bradt says the soil was merely given away by Koski to the companies involved in return for moving it.  One of the companies included Bardow Trucking.  "I went over to talk to Dan Bardow, he basically kicked me out his office," said Bradt.  Bradt later confirmed that Burdow was selling soil from the site after seeing an ad they took in the Saginaw News for "good top soil."  Suspicious activity involving the Dow Chemical Company and the dredge facility is far from over. 

While the lawsuit filed by Frankenlust Township was dropped, the township did receive confirmation under oath from James Koski, Les Wygem and Jim Sygo that the facility would not be open to third parties. 

But Helen Dijak suspects eventually Dow will have access to the dredge facility.  "Their refusal to put in writing stating that this will only hold dredges from the Saginaw river makes me think their will be something else in there."  If or when Dow does dump its dredge material into the DMDF, Dijak says, "We will be back in court." 

In order for Dow to gain access to the facility they would have to obtain permission from the Corps and Saginaw County.  According to Sygo, another EA would have to be completed or even an EIS.  This is also true if the Corps wishes to dispose of contaminated river sediment from the navigational channel of over 321 ppt.  Amendments would have to be made to the 401 Water Certification obtained for the site along with other permits.  Third parties obtaining access to the DMDF is not impossible, but it would be engulfed in a myriad of approval, aversion, confusion and disappointment.  

The Future?

Will the schizophrenic split between nature and industry always result in the bi polarization of economic means and environmental preservation?  The complexities of environmental degradation from the neglect of technological impacts, and industrial mismanagement, are often the result of sacrificing one point of view for another. 

The economic needs of Saginaw County and the state of Michigan are of great importance, but questions posed by those acutely aware of the environmental impacts of the DMDF should not be overlooked.  The Corps of Engineers will continue construction of the facility in May.  Per order of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, in years to come the Corps is not allowed to work at the facility during the months of January to May during the eagles mating season.  This does not mean the eagles are safe. 

According to the EPA, the Corps provides "no factual basis" that the DMDF would not impact the bald eagles living near the river.  The implementation of the DMDF on Marlbourne Road is scheduled to receive toxic dredges from the Saginaw River this coming fall.  Yet there remains work to be done before the facility is complete and court cases to be settled. 

A hearing for one of two suits filed by the Loan Tree Council is scheduled for April 27th at the Lansing circuit court.  The Army Corps of Engineers will build the slurry wall paid for by local businesses of Saginaw and the Dow Chemical Company.  Dow will continue its remediation of the Tittabawassee River overseen by the DEA this spring at the earliest, or summer. 
According to the DEQ, the dioxin dredge spoils will be shipped to Dow's Salzburg landfill in Midland.   Clearly, the dredge facility on Marlbourne Road affects not only those who live nearby because it is not an isolated event.  It passes through many dimensions of the Tri-Counties be they material, social, political, environmental or economic.  Perhaps if they were seen as interconnected, a solution to alleviate both economic depression and environmental disaster would arise. 

For now, the ecosystem, public and economy of Saginaw are left with a question mark as to what the future will bring.

What will you decide?


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