The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) named the Allied Paper, Inc./Portage Creek/Kalamazoo River Superfund Site in 1990. This enormous 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 were contaminated over the years with polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) from manufacturing of carbonless copy paper along the river. PCBs are human carcinogens that adhere to the fatty tissue in fish and that accumulate over time in organisms higher up the food chain, including humans. Fish Consumption Advisories were put in place in 1979 and remain in place today.

The EPA named Georgia-Pacific, International Paper, Weyerhaeuser and National Cash Register as “potentially responsible parties” who would be responsible for helping fund and plan the cleanup. The Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy (EGLE, formerly DEQ) is supporting the Federal EPA who is the lead regulatory agency in this effort.  Remedial planning began in 1998 and has continued in fits and starts since that time organized around six “Operable Units” that cover the entire site. Innumerable public meetings to share proposals and gather public input have been held over the years.

This is an enormous project that has been projected to require up to 20 years to complete. EPA, working along with EGLE, has cleaned up three of the six operable units, removed nearly 470,000 cubic yards of contaminated material from the site, cleaned up and restored about twelve miles of the Kalamazoo River and river banks, and capped 82 acres worth of contaminated material.

One recent EPA focus has been on developing a plan for the area from the Plainwell Dam to the Otsego City Dam. This has 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. Another local focus is the Allied Paper Landfill site where work began in June of 2021, and is expected to take 4 years till cleanup work is completed.

For more information consult the EPA web site for the Kalamazoo River Superfund here:


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