Photo: Dow’s headquarters in Midland, Michigan before the May 19, 2020 flood. The Tittabawasse River can be seen at left, in front of a brine pool.

Midland, Michigan Families, Factories Threatened by Floods after Dams Break

May 20, 2020
Dow Chemicals HQ, Dupont and Corteva facilities all imperiled by floodwater.

Photo: Dow’s headquarters in Midland, Michigan before the flood. The Tittabawasse River can be seen at left, in front of a brine pool.

Two dams in the vicinity of Midland, Michigan, failed late in the evening May 19, threatening the home of more than 41,000 people as well as the headquarters of Dow Inc. On social media, Dow said they had implemented emergency flooding plans, which called for the safe shutdown of all facilities and the evacuation of all but essential staffers “needed to monitor the situation and manage any issues as a result of the flooding.”

Heavy rainfall caused the water levels in Wixom Lake and Sanford Lake to rise, pushing the dams on each past their limits. The failure of both dams caused floodwater to pour into the Tittabawassee River, which flows through Midland. “In the next 12 to 15 hours, downtown Midland could be under nine feet of water,” said Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer, who ordered people in the area to evacuate. “To go through this in the midst of a global pandemic is almost unthinkable.”

The affected industrial site includes Dow’s headquarters as well as its Michigan industrial park. Other companies operating on the site include Corteva Agriscience and DuPont Specialty Products. Products made at the site include pharmaceutical ingredients, pesticides, and plastic packaging materials.

Flooding at the chemical industry site may pose a risk of contamination. In January, the state Attorney General of Michigan Dana Nessel sued Dupont, 3M, and 15 other defendant companies for damages caused by “forever chemicals” found in drinking water. Dupont denied liability and said the action was “without merit.”

The last time the river flooded, in 1986, Dow was forced to close almost all of its local operations after the river crested 34 feet. According to the Midland Daily News, the National Weather Service predicts water level for the river will crest at 38 feet Wednesday night before receding through Thursday and Friday.

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