MIDLAND, Mich.—Major flooding in Michigan forced Dow Inc. to evacuate most workers from its Midland headquarters site May 19, but officials said conditions at the plant were secure.
Two dams failed following days of heavy rain on May 19, flooding the Tittabawassee River, destroying homes and flooding Midland.
In a May 20 statement, Dow said its local emergency operations center had been fully activated and it implemented its flood preparedness plan. It also partnered with the U.S. Coast Guard to activate emergency plans when floodwaters commingled with on-site containment ponds.
Officials added that all operating units on site have been shut down safely, except for facilities needed for safe managment of chemical containment. All railcars also are secured.
"Only essential staff are onsite to monitor and manage the situation with no reported employee injuries," officials said.
In an update issued later on May 20, officials said that the material from the pond commingling with the flood waters "does not create any threat to residents or environmental damage." They added that no product releases have been reported.
Crain's Detroit Business, a sister publication of Plastics News, reported that the ponds cover 200 acres of Dow's 1,900-acre property in Midland. The ponds collect wastewater that is filtered before being discharged into the Tittabawassee. The river flows into the Saginaw River and then on into Lake Huron.
The emergency began when the 96-year-old Edenville Dam failed after 6 p.m. on May 19. Water that had made up Wixom Lake then overwhelmed the 95-year-old Sanford Dam downstream.
CDB also reported that the Edenville Dam had been rated in unsatisfactory condition by the state in 2018. That same year, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission revoked the license of the company that operated the dam because on noncompliance issues, including spillway capacity. The 95-year-old Sanford Dam received a fair condition from the state in 2018, according to CDB.
An estimated 10,000 residents near Midland were told to evacuate when the dams failed followed several days of heavy rain.
Flooding crested in downtown Midland on May 20 at 11 feet over flood stage.
State officials expected downtown Midland could be under nine feet of water later in the day on May 20.
Dow officials said on Facebook that the firm's Midland-based Michigan Operations "activated their emergency operations center and will be adjusting operations as a result of current flood stage conditions" shortly after the dams failed.
"Dow Michigan Operations is working with its tenants and Midland County officials and will continue to closely monitor the water levels on the Tittabawassee River," they added. "As always, our first priority is the safety and security of our employees and community."
Midland is a city of 42,000 in central Michigan. Dow, one of the world's largest plastics and chemicals makers, has operated in Michigan since 1897.
Dow's Michigan Operations include production of plastics and specialty chemicals, as well as major R&D assets. Several other firms have operations at the Dow complex, including DuPont, Corteva Agriscience, Trinseo and SK Saran.
Trinseo maintains office and production operations in Midland, where it makes latex and acrylonitrile butadiene styrene. A spokesman said the situation still is being assessed and declined to offer further comment at this time, referring to Dow's statement regarding the facility and complex.
According to a Dow website, polymers made by the firm in Midland are used in food and liquid packaging. Other products made in Midland include adhesives for automotive bonding; coatings for airbags; herbicides and insecticides for agriculture; beauty, hair and personal care ingredients and health care materials for medical devices, drug delivery and pharmaceutical tubing.