Two Companies Agree to Spend $36 Million for Contaminating Kalamazoo River

Georgia-Pacific and Millennium Holdings, two companies responsible for contaminating portions of the Kalamazoo River with polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), reached an agreement with EPA and state officials to perform a projected $21 million cleanup of the Plainwell Impoundment Area.

A separate agreement, reached with EPA, requires the companies to perform about $15 million in additional environmental sampling and investigation throughout the Kalamazoo River Superfund site.

The agreements, announced on Feb. 28, were produced during mediated discussions that began in late 2004 among EPA, the two companies, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the Michigan attorney general and two state agencies. 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 Region 5 Administrator Mary Gade. "The removal of more than two tons of PCBs near Plainwell is real progress toward recovery of the Kalamazoo River system."

The goal of the Plainwell Impoundment cleanup is 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 the Michigan Department of Natural Resources (MDNR). EPA, in consultation with the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (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 fact sheet about the agreements and upcoming work can be found at

PCBs 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, EPA officials said.

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