Midland, Michigan: Confronting Chemical Contamination:
How have conflicts and collaborations between activists, industry, and government agencies over Dow Chemical’s dioxin pollution shaped the life of mid-Michigan’s largest watershed?
Concern over toxic pollution from Dow Chemical’s plant in Midland, Michigan, pushes environmental activists and government agencies to clean up contamination in the face of corporate cover-ups, legal disputes, and conflicts of interest.
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Similar to other industrialized areas around the Great Lakes, Midland, Michigan, has suffered from water pollution since the early 20th century. Chemical industries in Midland began using the Tittabawassee and Saginaw Rivers to dispose of industrial waste in the early 1900s. The resulting toxins accumulated in the soil, fish, and wildlife, causing harm to both the environment and the people living and working in the region. As scientific and public awareness of water pollution increased throughout the U.S. and the Saginaw Bay area during the 1960s, government regulations and new federal environmental regulatory agencies helped limit the public health impact of toxic waste. Although progress to clean up and restore polluted areas has occasionally been confrontational and difficult, the efforts of local activists and environmental organizations have helped keep parties responsible for carrying out remedial actions for the Tittabawassee River.
This case examines the motivations and roles of Dow Chemical Co., bureaucratic agencies, and environmental NGOs in historical and modern activities involving chemical contamination in Midland, Michigan. From the manufacturing processes that produce toxic waste to the legislation that aims to prevent chemicals from contaminating bodies of water, we will look at historical and modern events that have shaped water quality in the Tittabawassee and Saginaw Rivers and led the way to a cleaner future.