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Congressional District # 08


EPA ID# MID980994354
Last Updated: November, 2011

Site Description

The Tittabawassee River/Saginaw River & Bay Site includes areas in and along a 24-mile stretch of the Tittabawassee River south of the confluence of the Chippewa River, the 22-mile Saginaw River, and portions of the 1,143 square mile Saginaw Bay. The rivers and floodplains include industrial, commercial, residential, and agricultural areas of Midland, Saginaw, and Bay Counties in Michigan. The Saginaw Bay watershed is one of Michigan's most diverse areas – its rich resources support agriculture, manufacturing, tourism, outdoor recreation, and a vast variety of wildlife. At this time it is unknown how much of the bay will need to be addressed. Dioxins and furans are the primary contaminants in sediment and floodplain soil. These contaminants came from historical releases from the Dow Chemical Company’s Midland Plant. The City of Midland and the Midland Plant are not part of the site because they are being addressed through Dow’s RCRA Hazardous Waste Management Facility Operating License issued by the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ).

The site has been separated into two parts called operable units (OUs). The first operable unit (OU1) includes the Tittabawassee River and about 5 miles of the Upper Saginaw River, including the 6th Street turning basin. The second operable unit (OU2) includes the Lower Saginaw River and Saginaw Bay.

Site Responsibility

This site is a Superfund alternative site being addressed through responsible parties' actions with federal and state oversight.

Threats and Contaminants

Floodplain soil and sediment at the site are contaminated with dioxins and furans. Dioxins and furans can bioaccumulate – meaning that these chemicals build up in the food chain. Eating contaminated fish and game, as well as frequent direct contact with contaminated soil or sediment are the primary exposure routes of concern to humans. Dioxins and furans may cause cancer or other health effects in humans. An additional 200 contaminants are monitored at the site, including chlorobenzenes, parathions, chlorophenols, polynuclear aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), and arsenic. Fish consumption and wild game advisories for the site were first issued in 1979 by the Michigan Department of Community Health and are still in effect.

Human access to the water bodies and sediment at the site is unrestricted. Human access to floodplain areas varies, depending on the land use. Wildlife in the area also has unrestricted access. The site is subject to flooding and erosion, particularly during high stream flow events. This may spread contamination to other locations within the floodplain, as well as downstream.

Cleanup Progress

EPA and MDEQ are taking a unique approach at the site – combining EPA’s Superfund program and MDEQ’s RCRA Hazardous Waste program to optimize cleanup of five areas: Dow’s Midland Plant, the City of Midland, the Tittabawassee River, the Saginaw River, and Saginaw Bay. MDEQ has the lead on the city and the Midland Plant, and EPA has the lead on the rivers and bay, but both agencies are working as partners to complete the job.

In 2003, MDEQ issued the current RCRA Hazardous Waste Management Facility Operating License for the Midland Plant. Under this license, Dow investigated contamination at the site and conducted some corrective action work to cleanup areas in the Tittabawassee River, including on-site and off-site corrective action work, interim response activities on frequently flooded properties, pilot studies on bank stabilization, and further site characterization.

Between July 2007 and February 2009, EPA and Dow entered into six (6) separate legal agreements called Administrative Settlement Agreements and Orders on Consent (AOCs). The agreements required Dow to perform time-critical removals to, among other things, remove certain contaminated bottom deposits, sediment, and/or soil in, or along, the Tittabawassee River, as well as in the Saginaw River. The removal actions performed under the six agreements included:

In January 2010, EPA, MDEQ, and Dow entered into a comprehensive Administrative Settlement Agreement and Order on Consent to complete a Remedial Investigation, Feasibility Study (RI/FS) and/or Engineering Evaluation and Cost and Cost Analysis (EE/CA), and Response Design (RD). Many required activities are being performed at the same time so that significant work can be accomplished on an accelerated schedule.

As of November 2011, the following key activities outlined in the Settlement Agreement are underway or have been completed:

Limiting contact with bare floodplain soil

Work began in 2011 at homes along the Tittabawassee River to limit people’s contact with bare floodplain soil that may contain elevated levels of dioxins and furans.
Controlling movement of highly contaminated soil or sediment

Developing comprehensive cleanup options

The Tittabawassee River has been divided into seven segments for development of comprehensive long-term cleanup options in an upstream-to-downstream approach. In November 2011 EPA selected a cleanup plan for Segment 1, a three-mile stretch of the river next to Dow’s Midland plant.

Segment 1 - There are six Sediment Management Areas, or SMAs within Segment 1. Most of the pollution in the sediment in this segment is from chlorobenzenes and other chemicals rather than dioxin. The final cleanup plan includes:

Construction is expected to begin in 2012 and to be complete in 2013.

Community Involvement

EPA, working with MDEQ, is committed to community involvement activities at the site that are robust and go far beyond what is required by law. Activities include:

Congressional Interest

U.S. Senator Carl Levin, of Michigan, is very interested in the site and has requested his office’s regional representative remain informed about site activities.

U.S. Congressman Dave Camp, of Michigan’s 4th District, is also very interested in the site and in EPA’s dioxin science and policy.


Remedial Project Manager, U.S. EPA
mary logan (logan.mary@epa.gov)
(312) 886-4699

Community Involvement Coordinator, U.S. EPA
Don De Blasio
(312) 886-9749





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