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EPA announces dioxin review, plans for Dow cleanup
Wednesday May 27, 2009, 9:22 am EDT

EPA plans review of dioxin dangers, new strategy for Dow Chemical plant cleanup in Michigan

TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. (AP) -- The federal government will speed up a long-delayed assessment of how dioxins affect human health, the head of the Environmental Protection Agency said Tuesday.

Lisa Jackson promised the quickened timetable while announcing a revised strategy for planning the cleanup of one of the nation's biggest dioxin pollution zones: a 50-mile section of Lake Huron watershed near a Dow Chemical Co. plant in Michigan. Dow has acknowledged responsibility for the pollution.

Dioxins are toxic byproducts from manufacturing chemicals. In a 2003 report, EPA labeled some dioxins as causing cancer and said virtually any level of exposure posed at least some danger.

The National Research Council agreed in 2006 that dioxins are a likely carcinogen but questioned how EPA estimated risks from low doses.

In a telephone interview with The Associated Press, Jackson said the EPA would issue a draft report on that matter by Dec. 31 and a final version within a year later.

"This will be important for a bunch of sites around the country," she said.

The extent of the health threat is among many issues that have delayed action at the Michigan site, which includes the city of Midland near the Dow plant, plus the Tittabawassee and Saginaw rivers and Lake Huron's Saginaw Bay.

Dow acknowledges polluting the region with dioxins for much of the 20th century. It has spent about $40 million on studies, sediment sampling and other preliminary work and has removed tainted soil from a number of "hot spots" with particularly high dioxin readings.

Even so, the company contends the pollution hasn't harmed people or wildlife and has argued with regulators since the 1990s over how to design a comprehensive cleanup.

Dow spokeswoman Mary Draves said, "We are prepared to move forward with this systematic approach EPA has outlined."

Source: Associated Press

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