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Dow Chemical Co. ranked second-largest toxic waste producer in the nation

Imerman Park sits on the flood plain of the Tittabawassee River. Signs along the trail warn walkers about dioxin contamination in some of the park's soil.
Photo by Shawn Allee
Imerman Park sits on the flood plain of the Tittabawassee River. Signs along the trail warn walkers about dioxin contamination in some of the park's soil.

The Dow Chemical Company is the second-largest producer of toxic chemical waste in the nation. That’s according to a new report by the Environmental Protection Agency.

The report shows that Dow produced more than 600 million pounds of toxic chemical waste in the reporting year 2010.

Ben Morlock is a spokesperson for Dow.

Morlock says 97% of that toxic chemical waste was treated, recycled or reused.

“We have on-site wastewater treatment plants, we have air pollution control equipment that incinerates contaminants so they’re not released into the air, we have equipment used in our manufacturing processes that captures chemicals and recycles them back into the process for reuse.”

He says the rest of that waste – the remaining three percent – was disposed of in accordance with the company’s state and federal permits.

“It is safe to say that most of that three percent is handled through land disposal, so for instance, it might go to a licensed secured landfill that is equipped to properly handle certain types of waste. So, I can tell you we audit the facilities we use for disposal and we make sure our waste is being handled properly if it leaves the site.”

He says Dow’s ranking on the EPA list reflects the size of the company. Dow is the nation’s largest chemical manufacturer.

The EPA’s report analyzes data from the Toxics Release Inventory. Industries in certain sectors are required by federal law to report their toxic chemical releases each year. This includes chemical manufacturers, metal mining, electric power companies and hazardous waste treatment.

The 2010 report says close to 4 billion pounds of toxic chemicals were released into the environment nationwide. This is a 16 percent increase from 2009. The EPA says this increase is mainly due to changes in the metal mining industry.

The EPA report notes that the amount of chemicals released to the land, air and water is self-reported by companies. And the report says these data are often estimates.

Michelle Hurd Riddick is with the Lone Tree Council. It’s an environmental advocacy group based in Saginaw. She says every year, she keeps tabs on what Dow reports to the EPA.

“EPA relies on self-reporting from corporations and I think that’s just inherently problematic that you are relying on the polluter to report to you.”

The EPA did not make anyone available for a recorded interview.

Dow maintains that they handle all their toxic waste very carefully. But Michelle Hurd Riddick points out the company hasn’t always done so.

“Dow is in fact responsible for one of the worst dioxin contaminations in the nation here in the Saginaw Bay watershed.”

Dow, the EPA and the state of Michigan have wrestled over the cleanup of that dioxin pollution for more than 30 years.

You can listen to and read an in-depth series: Dioxin Delays by The Environment Report.


Rebecca Williams is senior editor in the newsroom, where she edits stories and helps guide news coverage.
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