A major health crisis threatens residents of central Michigan after last week’s flooding that displaced more than 10,000 people and destroyed thousands of homes. There have been widespread concerns about potential chemical leakage from the flooded containment ponds at the Midland Dow Complex and the spread of dioxin by the flood from a Superfund cleanup site downriver to larger areas.
In response, Dow Chemical announced last Wednesday that there were “no reported product releases,” and the state of Michigan announced on May 27 that it would begin testing soil sediments taken from the Tittabawassee River this Thursday. However, the statement from Dow and the small-scope testing proposed by the state are woefully inadequate and in no way reassuring. The potential environmental and health crisis triggered by this flooding is a long time in the making and rooted in Dow’s decades-long criminal practice of dumping chemicals, failure to ensure safe working conditions, and above all, disregard for the health and well-being of the population.
In Dow’s reporting of its flooded containment ponds, the contents of these ponds were left unmentioned, and their real purpose was glossed over. Dow’s containment ponds collect chemical run-offs from a large cement trench running throughout the Midland Dow complex. As explained to the WSWS by a former Dow employee, the company “had trucks come in that would take the containers [of various chemicals], but they didn’t have a reservoir to collect any residual chemicals” besides the containment ponds, “which would overflow” with ground level chemicals when it rained.