U.S. EPA REGION 5
Congressional District # 08
TITTABAWASSEE RIVER, SAGINAW RIVER & BAYEPA ID# MID980994354
Last Updated: November, 2011
Site DescriptionThe 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 ResponsibilityThis site is a Superfund alternative site being addressed through responsible parties' actions with federal and state oversight.
Threats and ContaminantsFloodplain 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 ProgressEPA 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:
- Reach D - July through December 2007 – about 19,000 cubic yards of waste, debris, and sediment were removed and 59,341,028 gallons of water were treated at Dow’s Waste Water Treatment Plant.
- Reach J/K - August through September 2007 – about 32,000 cubic yards of soil were removed from the river bank and an area along the bank was capped and restored with trees and vegetation.
- Reach O - August through October 2007 – about 22,000 cubic yards of sediment were removed and 63,444 gallons water were treated and discharged.
- Wickes Park - November 2007 through January 2008 – about 700 cubic yards of sediment were removed.
- EU001 – August through November 2008 – about 21,000 tons of soil were removed from this residential area, replaced with clean soil, and the yards restored. The inside of some affected homes were cleaned and some roads were paved.
- EU002 – March through August 2009 – about 17,000 tons soil were removed from a park and replaced with clean soil, new playground equipment was installed, and the driveway and parking lot were paved. Barrier controls were installed at six nearby residential areas.
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.
- Evaluations of about 100 frequently used properties were completed in certain areas called Exposure Units (EUs).
- Interim exposure controls were placed at 25 eligible properties in 2011.
- Evaluations of additional properties and placement of interim exposure controls at eligible properties will continue in 2012.
- Post-flood sampling was done in 2011 at EU001 and EU002 to make sure these areas remain safe.
- Reach O – A river bank stabilization project was completed in 2010 at Reach O to prevent contaminant erosion from the bank into the river. The project uses several different erosion control technologies for short-term protection, while native vegetation grows and ultimately stabilizes the bank.
- Reach J – An in-channel pilot capping project was completed in 2010 at Reach J to stabilize buried contaminants. The project is evaluating an innovative approach to stabilize contaminated sediment by placing a grid-shaped geocell material on top of the deposit and having clean material fill the grids and create a cap.
- Island MM – A small island in the Tittabawassee River, Island MM, was removed and the nearby sediment was capped in 2011. This cleanup was done to control erosion of dioxins and furans from the island. The cap was designed to let the island restore itself naturally.
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:
- SMA 1 – Place a clean cap over contaminated sediment to isolate and stabilize it.
- SMAs 2 and 3 – Remove and treat dense non-aqueous phase liquids (DNAPL), isolate contaminated sediment with sheet pile and a cap, and capture water within the sediment and treat it.
- SMAs 4 and 5 – Place a clean cap over contaminated sediment.
- SMA 6 – Dredge and dispose of some sediment, remove and treat DNAPL, isolate remaining contaminated sediment with sheet pile and a cap, and capture water within the sediment and treat it.
- Treat and dispose of materials at approved locations.
- Monitor during and after the work.
- Operate and maintain the cleanup systems.
Construction is expected to begin in 2012 and to be complete in 2013.
Community InvolvementEPA, 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:
- EPA has developed a community involvement plan that will evolve over time to reflect changing community needs.
- EPA opened its Saginaw field office to provide additional service to the community.
- EPA and MDEQ are working closely with the community advisory group (CAG) that was formed to represent all the diverse points of view within the community. The CAG generally meets monthly and is open to the public.
- Technical assistance is being provided to the community through a “technical assistance plan” administered by the CAG. This TAP started off with $50,000, with more funding available as required.
- EPA and MDEQ will continue to work with the broader community.
- EPA is working with local partners to provide information on fishing advisories and site activities.
- Information on the progress of the work is made available on a routine basis, in plain, understandable language.
- Routine updates are posted to the Web site and announced through the listserv.
- Large public meetings — and less formal, small group meetings — are scheduled as appropriate, based on public interest.
Congressional InterestU.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.
ContactsRemedial Project Manager, U.S. EPA
mary logan (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Community Involvement Coordinator, U.S. EPA
Don De Blasio