LANSING, Mich. (AP) — Dow Chemical Co. and the state have agreed to work toward the cleanup of dioxin contamination in the Midland and Tittabawasse River areas, state environmental officials said yesterday.

The framework agreement requires Midland-based Dow to begin reducing residents’ exposure to dioxin by removing or covering up contaminated soil. It’s considered a first step toward a long-term cleanup in the area.

“This really is a blueprint, a roadmap, to move the process forward,” said Stephen Chester, director of the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality. “It is not a comprehensive agreement, and it was not intended to be a comprehensive agreement.”

Soil in areas with the greatest risk of dioxin exposure, including several spots in Midland and along the Tittabawassee River, will be the primary focus. Other research and work will be done along parts of the Saginaw River and Saginaw Bay.

Dow could do a variety of things to reduce dioxin exposure, including covering exposed soils and cleaning houses in high priority areas. The company said it will provide money or pay for a contractor to help property owners remove mud and dirt left by floods.

Efforts to reduce dioxin exposure in high priority areas will begin by the end of 2005 and continue until Dow begins a state-approved final cleanup plan.

Work in lower-priority areas along the Tittabawassee River is expected to begin in January 2006.

Dow expects to begin contacting property owners to lay out their options in the coming weeks, said Susan Carrington, Dow’s director for the Michigan dioxin initiative.

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