See Dow Chemical ponds, dioxin cleanup site after Michigan flooding

SLIDESHOW>> Brown, sediment-laden water is a telltale sign of flooding in Dow Chemical’s containment ponds along the Tittabawassee River in Midland on Friday.   (Bridge photo by Kelly House) 

SLIDESHOW>> Sanford Lake has been drained after the earthen dam holding back the lake (foreground) failed during historic flooding that caused the upstream Edenville Dam to fail, sending torrents of water downstream.  (Bridge photo by Kelly House)

SLIDESHOW>> The U.S. 10 bridge over Sanford Lake was destroyed during historic floods that caused Sanford Dam to fail, draining the lake nearly dry. (Bridge photo by Kelly House)

SLIDESHOW>> A milky plume of sediment-laden water pours into Saginaw Bay at Bay City, as floodwater continues to drain from mid-Michigan following historic rains this week. (Bridge photo by Kelly House)

SLIDESHOW>> Middleground Island, in the Saginaw River, is reduced to a narrow strip of land where houses have been flooded. The island is on EPA’s cleanup list as part of an effort to remove or bury soil contaminated with toxic dioxins from Dow Chemical’s past emissions. (Bridge photo by Kelly House) 

SLIDESHOW>> Riverside homes are inundated just beyond the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ Saginaw River Dredge Material Disposal Facility, where sediment dredged from the riverbed is dumped. (Bridge photo by Kelly House)

SLIDESHOW>> A mile away from the Tittabawassee River’s usual banks, Boehler’s Greenhouse in Saginaw is underwater, along with nearby neighborhoods and a junkyard where cars sit submerged. (Bridge photo by Kelly House)

SLIDESHOW>> The ballfields at St. Charles Park in Midland remain flooded days after torrential rain and a dual dam failure caused the worst flooding in the mid-Michigan city’s history. (Bridge photo by Kelly House)

SLIDESHOW>> The Tridge, center, a three-legged wooden footbridge in downtown Midland, remains flooded days after torrential rain and dam failures caused the city’s worst flooding in history. (Bridge photo by Kelly House)

SLIDESHOW>> The flooded Tittabawassee River as seen from a plane over the Midland area. (Bridge photo by Kelly House)

MIDLAND—As Michelle Hurd Riddick and Terry Miller, longtime central Michigan environmental activists, gazed out over the region from a small plane they’d chartered Friday to assess the damage from this week’s historic flood, their reaction was a mixture of relief and despair. 

The pair, of the Bay City-based Lone Tree Council, were worried they’d see obvious and acute environmental destruction caused by floodwaters overtopping contaminated sites along the Tittabawassee and Saginaw rivers.

But the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ Saginaw River Dredge Material Disposal Facility, where Riddick and Miller worried about dioxin-laden sediment escaping during the flood, appeared to have withstood the water. 

Dioxins, byproducts formed during the manufacture of chlorine-based products, may cause cancer and other health issues. They are present in sediment and soils in and along the Tittabawassee and Saginaw Rivers, remnants of Dow’s past emissions.

And the damage at Dow Chemical’s Midland facility didn’t appear to be any worse than the company has already acknowledged

Still, it’s the long-term impacts they worry about. In past big floods, Riddick said, floodwaters have carried contaminated river sediment well beyond the riverbed, into homes and yards. 

It’s too soon to tell whether this flood will bring more of the same, but the signs are all there. Brown, silty water still filled much of Midland and communities downstream on Friday evening, days after the river crested. 

“It’s all under water and mud,” Miller said as the plane passed over downtown Midland, with a Bridge Magazine reporter aboard. 

Although the pair were on the lookout for potential environmental and public health concerns, the flight also revealed the sheer scope of devastation wrought by the floodwaters. 

Large portions of Midland and nearby communities remained inundated. On the roads leading into Midland, homes have been emptied of soggy furniture, which now sit piled alongside streets. 

And at Sanford Lake, the reservoir formerly held back by the since-failed Sanford Dam, there is no lake to be found. The river runs freely along its former path. The U.S. 10 bridge over the lake appears to be snapped at the seams.

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Comments

A Yooper
Sun, 05/24/2020 - 7:03am

My, oh my, oh my.

Anonymous
Sun, 05/24/2020 - 5:17pm

Capitalism 1
Mother Nature 0

But as long as the stock market goes up its all good right?

Anonymous
Sun, 05/24/2020 - 5:48pm

Is anyone going to do actual testing?????