23 April, 2009

Let Them Eat Fish

Public service: ur doin it rong:

Next weekend they're going to host a walleye fishing festival in the Tittabawassee and Saginaw rivers. Because it's walleye breeding season and the fish are running. In fact, they run right through a zone that is in the process of being listed as a Superfund site, a site where the EPA recorded the highest levels of dioxin ever measured in this country.

That's dumb enough, right? It gets worse.

The fishing festival is sponsored by Dow Chemical, the company that put the pollution there in the first place.

Yes, that's even more ridiculous. But it actually gets worse.

They're donating the fish from the festival to a local food bank to give to the poor.

I know that corporations like to do charity work in order to prove what good citizens they are. Call me a cynic, but I don't think this is quite going to accomplish that goal.

Marie Antoinette would've been so proud...

1 comment:

Steve in MI said...

To be fair, there are regulatory advisories in effect on every one of the 10,000+ lakes, rivers, and streams in the state of Michigan. For the most part, the advisories have to do with the fishes' entire food chain having exposure to low levels of mercury, which gets magnified as it moves up the food chain. There's nothing out there that is immediately dangerous to a human consumer (i.e. eating just a few fish won't expose you to dangerous levels of mercury). But there are state-wide advisory limits on how often an adult should eat each species of wild-caught fish. It's a sorry state of environmental affairs, to be sure, but not something for which Dow is to blame.

There was a study that was started back in 2004-2005 to look at dioxin exposure in residents near Dow's Michigan Operations facility (chemical plant) in Midland, Michigan. The Michigan DNR/DEQ (state environmental enforcement agency) is just now churning through the results of the study. http://www.michigan.gov/deq/0,1607,7-135-3312_4118_4240-211969--,00.html

Three things to note about the Midland area. First, Midland is a Dow Chemical Company "company town". Just about every public event is sponsored by the Dow Chemical Company, just because they're the only outfit in town with enough money to sponsor anything. The sponsorship is less about Dow looking for good PR, and is much more about some 60-year-old low-ranking VP at Dow is probably a member of the Freeland Lions Club.

The other thing is that most folks around here assume that much of the greater Midland area is chock full of chemical contamination. I see the quote from one of the old Lions Club guys saying that some of the excess catch might be "donated to a local food bank". It sounds scandalous, but it's actually nothing unusual. The recipients would be the poor population of Midland, who lives with the local contamination (and its products) every day. Not that that should be considered acceptable; it's just to say that this one weekend event may not be that much different from the (equally shameful) toxic exposure that to which this population is regularly exposed.

The underlying issue is that the plant, the river, and the surrounding community need to be cleaned up to a point where it is same for everyone. The poorest of the poor in central Michigan aren't in town lining up at the food bank; they're down at the river fishing for enough food to make dinner for themselves and their families. THAT is the group that's really at risk here. Those for whom subsistence fishing is a major part of their diet don't pay any attention to the DEQ's "recommended limits"; they just eat what they need to. They're the ones who will suffer from elevated chemical contamination, AND they're the ones who will be missed in the University-sponsored studies.

Bottom line - the cleanup still needs to be done, and done right. Dow and GM are culpable for the original contamination, but Dow isn't doing anything particularly scandalous in this instance. What we're seeing is just a glimpse at everyday life in mid-Michigan.