Diane Hebert papers: 1950-2009 (bulk 1970-2000)
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Biography

Diane Hebert was born in 1946 in Flint, Mich. After graduating from Northern High School in 1964, Hebert worked as a flight attendant for Trans-Michigan Airlines beginning in the late 1960s. She later married Donald Hebert, a corporate pilot. The family moved to Midland, Mich. in 1977.

In 1978, Hebert became concerned after seeing media accounts warning that toxic chemicals, called dioxins, could be transferred from mother to child through breast milk, so she began to research the issue. She joined the Lone Tree Council, an environmental organization founded in 1978 by the citizens of Bay City, Mich., and began investigating the Dow Chemical Company in order to reveal the dangers of human exposure to dioxins, waste byproducts of chlorine manufacturing and incineration. Dioxins were created by the incinerator that burned Dow's hazardous waste, and were then pumped into the Tittabawassee River flowing along the factory's southern border. As a result of their research, Hebert and her fellow environmentalists became aware of many reports of cancers and birth defects from people that lived near Dow's landfills and chemical injection wells. They believed that exposure to these dioxins through contaminated fish, soil, and air, were causing illnesses among the people of Midland. In 1982, a local group called the Environmental Congress of Mid-Michigan (ECOM) was formed. Hebert served as an ECOM director.

In 1983, Midland became the center of a national controversy following a report that the Dow Chemical Company had edited an Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) report on dioxins. A group of Michigan environmentalists held a press conference in Washington D.C. to call for a full-field investigation of Dow practices. While Hebert did not attend the Washington press conference, she gave dozens of interviews. These events helped bring national attention to the dioxins issue in Midland, Michigan.

Throughout the 1980s, Hebert continued to give interviews and collect evidence of the link between environmental contamination and health problems in Midland. She also started working with numerous other environmental organizations, including Citizens for Alternatives to Chemical Contamination (CACC), Greenpeace, where she served as Toxics Coordinator, and a number of Washington-based environmental groups, including the Environmental Action Foundation, the Environmental Defense Fund, the National Wildlife Federation, and the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC). Through her work, she also constantly engaged with the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ), as well as EPA employees and officials.

One of the greatest successes that Hebert and her fellow environmentalists achieved, through persistence and media attention, was getting Dow's old brine and chemical injection system shut down in the mid-1980s. Hebert did dozens of interviews to prove that the system was responsible for contaminated wells and farmland.

By the early 2000s, through her research and communications with the Dow Chemical Company, various elected officials, the media, and environmental activists, Hebert came to be at the forefront of the issue regarding the presence of dioxins in Midland. A longtime resident of Midland, in which over 6,000 people are employed by Dow, Hebert was often harshly criticized by her neighbors for her environmental activism, especially since the City of Midland rejected all information that condemned Dow. Nevertheless, she continued her tireless efforts to reveal the dangers of dioxins-exposure and the link between dioxins and Dow. Hebert continues to be a faithful monitor of the emissions produced by the Dow Chemical Company.