Update on Kalamazoo River Superfund Site

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) named the ”Allied Paper Inc./Portage Creek/Kalamazoo River site” as a Superfund Site in 1990. This site includes 80 miles of the Kalamazoo River from Morrow Dam to Lake Michigan and 3 miles of Portage Creek between Cork Street and the Kalamazoo River. The river bottom and its banks are contaminated with polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) from earlier reuse of carbonless copy paper along the river.

Georgia-Pacific, International Paper, and Weyerhauser have been identified as the remaining “potentially responsible parties” to provide funding and to work with EPA in designing and completing the necessary work. Remedial planning began in 1998 and has continued in fits and starts since that time. Numerous public meetings to share EPA proposals and gather public input have been held over the years.

As of December 2017, cleanup has taken place at 3 of the 6 “operable units.” This includes Willow Boulevard and A-Site Landfill, King Highway Landfill, and 12th Street Landfill.  Some preventive work has been done on Portage Creek and 2 miles of the Kalamazoo River, including “capping” of approximately 82 acres worth of contaminated material. The very controversial plan for the Allied Paper Landfill off Cork Street in the City of Kalamazoo is scheduled for implementation in 2018. Removal of the Alcott St. dam and its sediments began in February, but this is being funded through the Natural Resource Damage trust fund and Michigan DEQ sources.

The most recent EPA focus has been on developing a plan for the area from the Plainwell Dam to the Otsego City Dam. The political changes at EPA in 2017 have resulted in the inclusion of the Plainwell Paper Mill property on the “Superfund Redevelopment Focus List.” This represents the judgment by EPA that this site and 20 others nationwide have significant redevelopment potential. Perhaps this will result in additional progress?

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