Kalamazoo Superfund: EPA, DOJ finalize $245 million settlement

The U.S. EPA, U.S. Department of Justice, the Kalamazoo River Natural Resource Trustee Council, and Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy have announced entry of a consent decree that requires NCR Corp. to clean up and fund future response actions at a significant portion of the Allied Paper Inc./Portage Creek/Kalamazoo River Superfund site.

The consent decree also includes payments related to natural resource damages and past cleanup efforts at the site.

The federal district court judge entered the consent decree after a public comment period on the proposed agreement.

“This settlement is important for the citizens of western Michigan, and is a big step towards cleaning up the Kalamazoo River,” said EPA Regional Administrator Kurt Thiede. “This settlement is the latest example of this Administration’s commitment to cleaning up and restoring contaminated sites so they can be put back to productive use in the community.”

The Allied Paper Inc./Portage Creek/Kalamazoo River Superfund site is in Allegan and Kalamazoo counties and is divided into six segments, or operable units (OUs), that require cleanup.

According to the settlement terms, NCR Corporation will spend approximately $135.7 million cleaning up three areas of OU 5. OU 5 includes 80 miles of the Kalamazoo River and three miles of Portage Creek. In addition, NCR will pay:

  • $76.5 million to EPA for past and future costs in support of river cleanup activities;
  • $27 million to natural resource trustees of the Kalamazoo River Natural Resource Trustee Council for Natural Resources Damage Assessment and claims;
  • $6 million to State of Michigan for past and future costs.

Historically, the Kalamazoo River was used as a power source for paper mills that were built along the river and a disposal site for the paper mills and the communities adjacent to the river.

NCR arranged for disposal of carbonless copy paper contaminated with chemicals called polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) at the site.

In the early 1970’s, PCBs were identified as a problem in the Kalamazoo River.

In 1990, in response to the nature and extent of PCB contamination, the site was added to the National Priorities List, which includes the nation’s most serious uncontrolled or abandoned hazardous waste releases.

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 banks, and capped 82 acres worth of contaminated material.

Photo: Kalamazoo River Alliance