Dow Chemical Co. has agreed to spend $77 million on environmental restoration projects in mid-Michigan to settle complaints of pollution and wildlife destruction caused by the Midland-based chemical manufacturer.
The settlement, announced Friday and subject to public comment and approval, would "compensate the public for injuries to natural resources," according to a news release from the United States Attorney's Office Eastern District of Michigan.
Dow has agreed on settlement terms with the state of Michigan and the Saginaw Chippewa Indian Tribe of Michigan.
Federal, state and tribal agencies filed complaints alleging that Dow released dioxin-related compounds and other substances that "adversely affected fish, invertebrates, birds and mammals," and led to restrictions on hunting, fishing and use of public parks, the release said.
The Dow plant released dioxins and other hazardous substances into rivers and their watersheds for decades after opening in 1897.
As part of the reparations, the company agreed to pay for and implement eight natural resource restoration projects throughout Midland, Saginaw and Bay counties.
It also agreed to fund a "restoration account" that will be used to support other projects identified by natural resource trustees, which include the Department of the Interior's U.S. Fish and Wildlife; Service and Bureau of Indian Affairs; the Michigan Department of Natural Resources; Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy; Department of Attorney General; and the Saginaw Chippewa Indian Tribe.
Dow said in a statement emailed to Crain's Detroit Business that it is "committed to working cooperatively" with the agencies to move forward on the five-year plan.
"Altogether, the set of proposed projects are expected to provide approximately 8,000 acres of natural habitat creation, enhancement and preservation across the Great Lakes Bay region that will benefit fish, birds, mammals and other wildlife, while creating enhanced recreational and educational opportunities for the public," the statement said.
In addition to the implementation and monitoring of the natural resource projects, and the creation of a project fund, the $77 million includes Dow's reimbursement of costs previously incurred by agencies assessing natural damages caused by the company, the release said.
"With this settlement, the natural resources in the Saginaw Bay area will be restored through the creation of natural habitat areas, nature preserves, hiking and biking trails, and greater access for fishing, hunting, and canoeing," U.S. Attorney Matthew Schneider said in the release.
The restoration projects include:
- Creation and improvement of habitat areas in and around the Tittabawassee River, Saginaw River and Saginaw Bay
- Construction of fish spawning areas in Saginaw Bay
- Construction of a rock ramp to promote increased fish passage over a dam at Dow's Midland plant
- Improvements to water control structures in the Shiawassee National Wildlife Refuge
- Expansion of a boat launch at the mouth of the Saginaw River
A public meeting on the proposed settlement is scheduled for 7 p.m. Nov. 21 at Four Points by Sheraton Saginaw in Saginaw Township.
The settlement is separate from an ongoing Dow-funded cleanup of dioxin contamination along the Tittabawassee and Saginaw Bay.