A Dow Chemical plant and two EPA Superfund sites stood in the path of floodwaters after two dams on the Tittabawsee River in Michigan breached Tuesday, setting off concerns about toxic chemicals washing downstream, reports The New York Times.
Floodwaters reached the Dow Chemical Co. on Wednesday morning but flowed into retaining ponds designed to hold brine water used on the site.
"It's a disaster — a public health risk, possibly a wildlife risk, and it's gonna cost a lot of money," said Allen Burton, director of the Institute for Global Change Biology at the University of Michigan.
The Dow complex has manufactured a range of products over the years including Saran Wrap, Styrofoam, Agent Orange, and mustard gas. The company is a leading producer of plastics, chemicals, hydrocarbons, and agrochemicals, but previously discharged dioxins, chemical compounds which can cause reproductive harm and cancer, into the river.
The Environmental Protection Agency's superfund program has been overseeing Dow's cleanup of the site since 2012.
Dow officials in a statement said they have implemented their "flood preparedness plan" and are working with Midland County authorities and the U.S. Coast Guard.
"All operating units on site have been safely shut down, except for facilities needed for safely managing chemical containment, and all railcars are secured," the company said.
"Only essential staff are onsite to monitor and manage the situation with no reported employee injuries."
Thousands are under evacuation orders in mid-Michigan as the river at Midland, Michigan, fluctuates around 35 feet. A forecast by the National Weather Service in Detroit predicts the river is expected to drop around midnight. The flooding comes during the coronavirus pandemic, forcing officials to juggle two major public safety crises at once.
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