Michigan flood displaces thousands, threatens Superfund site

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The Flint Journal MLive.com

Water engulfs a Swan Township driveway at the intersection of Trimm and Roosevelt roads as heavy rains flood Saginaw County, Mich., on Tuesday, May 19, 2020. (Jake May/The Flint Journal via AP)

MIDLAND, Mich. – Floodwaters surging through Central Michigan on Wednesday were mixing with containment ponds at a Dow Chemical Co. plant and could displace sediment from a downstream Superfund site, though the company said there was no risk to people or the environment.

Dow said the ponds held only water, and it has detected no chemical releases from the plant in Midland where the company was founded, though the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency said state officials would evaluate the plant when they’re able. Once the flooding recedes, Dow will be required to assess the Superfund site — contaminated with dioxins the company dumped in the last century — to determine if any contamination was released, the EPA said.

Meanwhile, the Tittabawassee River crested at just over 35 feet (11 meters) in Midland, about 3 feet (90 centimeters) below the forecast level.

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer had warned that the city of 42,000 people could end up under 9 feet (2.7 meters) of water by Wednesday evening after floodwaters overtook two dams and forced the evacuation of about 10,000 people from their homes.

But the danger isn't over, and Midland officials asked that residents not return yet. The National Weather Service said communities farther downstream were bracing for flooding in the coming days.

No injuries or fatalities related to the flooding have been reported, Midland spokeswoman Selina Tisdale said.

Residents near the river were urged to seek higher ground following what the National Weather Service called “catastrophic dam failures” at the Edenville Dam, about 20 miles (32 kilometers) northwest of Midland, and the Sanford Dam, about 8 miles (13 kilometers) downriver.

Midland City Manager Brad Kaye said Wednesday that the Sanford Dam is overflowing but that the extent of structural damage isn’t yet known.