Dow agrees to pay $77 million to restore Tittabawassee River watershed

A settlement with Dow Chemical is requiring the company to pay $77 million for restoring part of the Tittabawassee River. (Credit: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service)
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MIDLAND (WJRT) (11/8/2019) - Dow Chemical is settling a lawsuit alleging environmental contamination along the Tittabawassee River with a plan to complete $77 million worth of restoration projects.

The lawsuit stemmed from contamination caused by decades of hazardous materials releases into the river in Midland, Saginaw and Bay counties since Dow's founding in 1897.

Environmental experts have documented harm to fish, wildlife and natural areas along the Tittabawassee and Saginaw rivers and in Saginaw Bay caused by Dow's contamination.

Dow already is paying to clean up dioxin contamination along the Tittabawassee River. The $77 million worth of restoration projects will be in addition to that ongoing project.

New projects include:
-- Fish spawning and fish passage improvements.
-- Restoration of thousands of acres of wetlands and other habitats.
-- Creation of multiple public nature areas with nature trails, fishing platforms and one bike trail segment.
-- Protection of a green corridor along the Tittabawassee River.
-- Expansion of boating access at the mouth of the Saginaw River.

The settlement also requires Dow to pay for an additional $5 million worth of projects selected by the public and $10 million for maintaining and monitoring projects completed under the settlement.

The agreement announced on Friday is subject to public comment and approval in federal court, where the lawsuit was filed. The public is invited to provide feedback at 7 p.m. Thursday at the Four Points by Sheraton Saginaw hotel at 4960 Towne Centre Road in Saginaw.

“This settlement has been more than a decade in the making by a combined team of state, federal and tribal partners working together for the benefit of Michigan’s environment and precious natural resources,” Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel said. “I look forward to seeing these projects implemented to the benefit of the communities and ecosystems impacted by Dow’s contamination.”

Michigan Department of Natural Resources Director Dan Eichinger said the settlement is designed to pay back the public for lost use of the watershed and natural resources over several decades due to Dow's contamination.

“The trustees are working to compensate the public for past and expected future losses to recreational fishing, park use and hunting as a result of public health advisories issued because of releases from Dow’s Midland facility,” he said.

Lost uses over the years include recreational fishing, hunting and parks.

Comments on the Draft Restoration Plan and Environmental Assessment may be submitted to t.river.nrda@fws.gov or Lisa Williams, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, 2651 Coolidge Road, Suite 101, East Lansing, MI. 48823.

Comments on the proposed Consent Decree may be submitted to the Department of Justice in accordance with the instructions provided in the Federal Register Notice.