EPA freezes chemical contamination talks

The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has halted negotiations with a major chemical firm, declaring it is not offering a satisfactory deal to clean up contaminants in a river system near one of its facilities.

EPA chiefs said they were disappointed that they had failed to resolve a number of issues during the talks with Dow Chemical about dioxin and furan contamination in the Tittabawassee River, in Michigan.

In October, EPA called for 60 days of negotiations with the firm under its Superfund programme, which specifies how contaminated sites must be cleaned up.

A deadline of December 10 was extended last month in a bid to reach a final agreement, but talks fell through shortly after the start of the New Year.

"EPA does not believe that the deal DOW is offering goes far enough," said Ralph Dollhopf, associate director for the Superfund Division of EPA's Chicago office.

"Key issues that are paramount for protecting human health and the environment remain unresolved. EPA simply will not accept any deal that is not comprehensive."

Regional administrator Mary Gade said: "EPA approached negotiations with high hopes and realistic expectations.

"Our team put in many long hours of good faith efforts that came to an unfortunate end today."

Dow bosses said they were frustrated and disappointed by the decision, and rejected Ms Gade's characterisation.

Senior vice president David Kepler said the company was prepared to commit a great deal of time and money to the clean up.

Talks centred on an area of the Tittabawassee which begins upstream of Dow's 1,900-acre chemical manufacturing plant and extends to Saginaw Bay, in Lake Huron.

The plant produces dioxins and furans as a by-product from the manufacture of chlorine-based products, and past waste disposal practices, emissions and incineration have resulted in on- and off-site contamination.

Kate Martin



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