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Agreements boost Kalamazoo River cleanup; $21 million Plainwell project begins

Release Date: 02/28/2007
Contact Information: (EPA) Mick Hans, (312) 353-5050, hans.mick@epa.gov (EPA) Don de Blasio, (312) 886-4360, deblasio.don@epa.gov (MDEQ), Bob McCann, (517) 241-7397, mccannr@michigan.gov

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
No. 07-OPA030

CHICAGO (Feb. 28, 2007) Cleanup of the Kalamazoo River is one step closer, thanks to two legal agreements between U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the State of Michigan and two of the companies responsible for PCB contamination.

One agreement, between EPA, Michigan, Georgia-Pacific and Millennium Holdings, requires the companies to perform a projected $21 million cleanup of the Plainwell Impoundment Area, including removal of a portion of the Plainwell Dam. The other agreement, between EPA and the two companies, requires the companies to perform about $15 million in additional environmental sampling and investigation throughout the Kalamazoo River Superfund site.

The agreements were produced during mediated discussions that began in late 2004 among EPA, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Michigan Attorney General and Departments of Environmental Quality and Natural Resources, and the two companies. The discussions are part of the ongoing intergovernmental effort to address PCB contamination along an 80-mile stretch of the river.

"This is an important step forward," said EPA Regional Administrator Mary Gade. "The removal of more than two tons of PCBs near Plainwell is real progress toward recovery of the Kalamazoo River system."

"Today's announcement is a milestone in our efforts to address this legacy of contamination," said MDEQ Director Steven E. Chester. "Through this partnership effort we will make a positive impact on the health of the Kalamazoo River that will last for generations to come."

"The bottom line is that these agreements will help clean up contamination in the Kalamazoo River," said Michigan Attorney General Mike Cox. "And because these agreements require additional studies, testing and research, the health of the river will continue to improve."

State and federal natural resource trustees, who represent the public interest for natural resources at the site, support the agreements.

The Plainwell Impoundment cleanup aims to remove 4,400 pounds of PCBs (132,000 cubic yards of material) from a 1.5 mile segment of the river upstream of the Plainwell Dam between Plainwell and Otsego. The two-year project targets contaminated river banks, in-stream sediment and floodplain hotspots primarily located on land owned by MDNR. EPA, in consultation with MDEQ, will oversee the work performed by contractors hired by the responsible parties.

Construction equipment will begin arriving at the site in the next few weeks, with work slated to begin in early April and continuing through late fall or early winter. The project will follow a similar schedule in 2008. About 20 to 30 loads of dredged material will be trucked daily to a landfill in Kalamazoo. Steps to control dust from the construction activities have been built into the work plan.

The supplemental sampling effort by the companies will build upon data previously collected and help determine additional cleanup steps. Initially, samples will be collected and analyzed from locations along a 20-mile upstream stretch of the river between the Morrow and Plainwell Dams, including a 3-mile segment of Portage Creek.

A public meeting will be held 6:30 to 8:30 p.m., March 15 at the Plainwell High School cafeteria, 684 Starr Rd. The government partners will also host an open house meeting at the Plainwell Community Schools

Administration Building, 600 School Drive, from 1:00 to 3:30 p.m., to answer questions in a less formal setting. There will not be a presentation at the afternoon open house. A fact sheet about the agreements and upcoming work has been sent to EPA's mailing list for the Superfund site. It is also online: http://www.epa.gov/region5/sites/kalproject/.

Site documents are available for review at the Allegan, Douglas, Kalamazoo and Otsego Public Libraries, Plainwell's Charles Ransom Library and Western Michigan University's Waldo Library. Residents with questions or who need special accommodations at the public meeting may contact EPA Community Involvement Coordinator Don de Blasio at (800) 621-8431, ext. 64360 (business hours), or deblasio.don@epa.gov.

PCBs (polychlorinated biphenyls) are a group of toxic chemicals that were widely used in carbonless copy paper, and as coolants, insulators and lubricants. PCBs are of concern because they concentrate in the food chain resulting in health hazards to people, fish and wildlife. Congress banned the manufacture of new PCBs in 1976 and PCBs still in use are strictly regulated.

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