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“Dam Failure Threatens a Dow Chemical Complex and Superfund Cleanup”

“Floodwaters from two breached dams in Michigan on Wednesday flowed into a sprawling Dow chemical complex and threatened a vast Superfund toxic-cleanup site downriver, raising concerns of wider environmental fallout from the dam disaster and historic flooding.

The compound, which also houses the chemical giant’s world headquarters, lies on the banks of the Tittabawassee River in Midland, where by late Wednesday rising water had encroached on some parts of downtown. Kyle Bandlow, a Dow spokesman, said that floodwaters had reached the Dow site’s outer boundaries and had flowed into retaining ponds designed to hold what he described as brine water used on the site.

The Superfund cleanup sites are downriver from the century-old plant, which for decades had released chemicals into the nearby waterways. The concern downriver, according to Allen Burton, a professor of earth and environmental sciences at the University of Michigan, is that contaminated sediments on the river floor could be stirred up by the floodwaters, spreading pollution downstream and over the riverbanks.”

Hiroko Tabuchi reports for the New York Times May 20, 2020.


“Michigan: Threat Of Toxic Contamination Looms After Dam Failures Trigger Flooding” (Guardian)

“Extreme Weather: Historic Deluge Swamps Mich. Dams, Threatens Superfund Site” (Greenwire)

“Dow in Midland: Flood Water Mixed With Our Containment Ponds; No Chemicals Released” (Detroit Free Press)

“Flooding of Dow's Midland Facilities Raises Contamination Fears At Superfund Site” (Detroit News)

“Trump Sends FEMA to Michigan as Flood Dislocates Thousands” (Bloomberg)

“Two Dams That Failed Were Rated ‘High Hazard.’ A Third of Michigan’s Dams Hold a Similar Risk.” (New York Times)

“Superfund: EPA Should Take Additional Actions to Manage Risks from Climate Change” (GAO)

“As Virus Lingers in Michigan, a New Crisis Arrives: Flooding” (New York Times)