US appeals court rules property owners have a valid case over soil contamination

An appeals court in Michigan, US, has ruled that property owners downstream of Dow Chemical’s Midland plant on the Tittabawassee River have a legitimate legal complaint against the company for loss of property value as a result of dioxin contamination discovered in the floodplain soil.

Dow has maintained the plant for over a century, producing products like styrene, butadiene, mustard gas, Agent Orange, and pesticides including Chlorpyrifos and 2,4,5–trichlorophenol.

The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ) had confirmed the presence of dioxin in the soil by spring 2001, and further investigation indicated that Dow’s plant was the likely source.

Dow argued that the statute of limitations had expired before the lawsuit was launched in 2003 because the pollution was publicly known in the 1980s. But the court ruled that the three-year clock didn’t start ticking until the MDEQ released its initial sampling results to the public in February 2002.

However, Dow Chemical questions the validity of the court’s decision. ‘We will continue to defend this case vigorously and we remain confident in a favourable outcome,’ the company stated.