Historic Flooding Hits Midland, Mich., Chemical Complex

Historic flooding in the Midland, Mich., region because of heavy rains last month prompted the collapse of two privately-owned dams. The deluge caused the Dow Chemical-Michigan Operations Industrial Park to shut down and the evacuation of at least 10,000 residents.

The west side of the industrial park, which contains Dow and DuPont operations and Dow spin-off companies Sk Saran, Corteva and Trinseo, suffered damage in the flood, which began May 19, said Local 1275 President Kent Holsing. His local represents about 850 workers at those five companies.

Holsing said the east side of the industrial complex, which contains the former Dow Corning operations, received little damage because the water did not reach it. Local 12934 represents about 680 workers on that side of the complex.

The entire complex is operating now and everyone is back to work.

USW members from both locals suffered damage from the flooding.

“We have members who experienced water in their basement to those who lost everything but their house, which is still standing, to those whose homes were swept off the foundation and are gone,” Holsing said.

As of June 4, he said he received 14 applications for assistance from the USW’s disaster relief fund.

“I know there are people who have damage, but have not submitted the request for relief from the USW,” he said.

Local 12075 member Rich Carmona, a logistics operator at Dow, still has a home, but the floodwaters submerged half of it. His son had to paddle a kayak to get to the front door a day-and-a-half after the water breached the property. Carmona and his neighbors hauled out of their homes bedding, hot water tanks, dryers, furniture and other household items inundated by the flood water.

A perfect storm

For the last two years, much of the Midwest experienced greater-than-average rainfall. This year’s spring rains followed that pattern. Many places had an extra 8 to 10 inches of rain compared to the average.

Midland received 3.83 inches of rain on May 19, which was its wettest day since September 2015. The city sits about 18 miles downstream of the privately-owned Edenville Dam along the Tittabawassee River, which runs through the west side of the industrial park.

Had Boyce Hydro LLC repaired its Edenville Dam and maintained it in good shape, the excessive rainfall likely would not have been a problem. The dam had outstanding safety issues for years, and the Federal Energy Regulatory yanked Hydro’s power generating permit in 2018.

The dam collapsed, sending cascades of water into Sanford Lake. Boyce Hydro also owned the dam on that lake, which powers its hydroelectric plant. The Sanford Dam remained intact but water breached it, causing the excessive water flow to head downstream to Midland.

Immediate action taken

Dow, evacuated the entire site, except for a skeletal crew of USW members who stayed behind to maintain safe operations.

The evacuated employees received pay and excused time off. Dow paid for a hotel stay for its workers who could not return home, and the company provided housing for those who lost their homes or had extensive damage.

Dow, DuPont and Corteva also offered interest-free, short-term loans up to $10,000 to help employees recover from the flood.

“The companies, especially Dow, DuPont and Corteva, have done a good job of keeping the union updated as things progress,” Holsing said. “We believe they are addressing the needs of our members above and beyond what the contract dictates.”

To help our brothers and sisters who have lost their homes or received flood damage, click here to donate whatever you can afford to the USW’s disaster relief fund.

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