Dow and the Global Water Crisis: Helping or Deflecting Scrutiny?

Earlier this month, the Michigan League of Conservation Voters’ website had blog post criticizing the United Nations for praising Dow Chemical for helping on global water issues. The announcement came shortly after residents filed a class action lawsuit against the company for its pollution of Michigan’s Tittabawassee Riber. Of course, it does not take much thought to realize that good press for Dow has the potential to lessen focus on its destructive behavior.

A similar situation took place earlier this week in which Dow Chemical was praised while at the same time it was coming under scrutiny for its environmental record. On Monday, Dow Chemical announced a partnership with Michigan-based International Aid in which Dow will supply a plastic resin for water filters that International Aid is going to distribute in the developing world. However, the Midland Daily News reported that Dow Chemical is filing an appeal with the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ) in which it is trying to lessen its responsibility for cleaning up dioxin pollution. Dow Chemical argues that it is not the only responsible party and should not be the only one cleaning up the region.

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EPA Alleges Clean Air and Hazardous Waste Violations at Dow’s Michigan Facility

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced on Friday that it has found potential clean-air and hazardous waste violations at Dow Chemical’s Midland, Michigan facility. The EPA has issued a “finding of violation” under the Clean Air Act and a “notice of violation” under the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act. The EPA alleges that Dow Chemical violated the Clean Air Act by “failing to follow regulations aimed at detecting and repairing leaks, as well as failing to conduct a required stack test” and the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act by violating provisions for managing hazardous waste. According the EPA, these violations may have:

“…increased public exposure to organic hazardous air pollutant emissions including, but not limited to, ethyl chloride, toluene, ethylene, perchloroethylene, methanol and hydrogen chloride. Hazardous air pollutants may cause serious health effects including birth defects and cancer and may also cause harmful environmental and ecological effects. These pollutants are also volatile organic compounds and are major precursors of ground-level ozone (smog).”

The preliminary notice allows Dow Chemical a thirty-day window during which it can meet with the EPA to discuss resolving the allegations. The EPA can also choose to issue a compliance order, assess a fine, or file a lawsuit against the company. Thus far, Dow Chemical has downplayed the violations, suggesting that they are “paperwork” errors.