Clean up scheduled for contaminated segment of Kalamazoo River

Posted at 11:24 PM, Apr 15, 2016
and last updated 2016-04-15 23:44:08-04

OTSEGO TWP, Mich. – The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued an order for the clean up of a section of the Kalamazoo River that was contaminated by paper mills back in the late 1970’s and early 1980’s.

A 1.5 mile stretch of the river near the Otsego Township Dam is the site of the clean up. The EPA is removing toxic polychlorinated biphenyls (PCB) contaminated sediment in that area. PCB sediment is leftover waster from nearby paper mills recycling carbon-less paper.

The EPA said they tried reaching out to the companies they say are responsible for leaving the PCB deposits, but have not been able to come to an agreement.  So Friday, the EPA issued a unilateral order telling the companies they need to get to work.

Gary Wager with the Kalamazoo River cleanup coalition says the fight to remove the PCB has been a long, slow battle.

“I used to say that the EPA moved at a glacial pace," Wager said. "But the glaciers are melting so fast these days, I’d say the glaciers are ahead of the EPA right now.”

The Otsego Township Dam is a major concern. It’s layered with large amounts of PCB, and Wager says if the dam breaks, large amounts of PCB could flow down river and end up in Lake Michigan.

The plan is to use heavy equipment to remove the PCB contaminated sediment from the dam, river, and river bottom.  Barges will be used from the shore to excavate the contaminants.  They will be loaded into trucks and taken to appropriate land fills for proper disposal.

Work on the stretch of river in Otsego is scheduled to begin this summer and is expected to finish in March of 2018.