EPA and Justice Department Announce $245 Million Agreement for Cleanup at the Allied Paper Inc./Portage Creek/Kalamazoo River Superfund Site

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), U.S. Department of Justice, the Kalamazoo River Natural Resource Trustee Council, and Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy (EGLE) today announced a proposed consent decree that would require 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 consent decree is subject to a 30-day public comment period.

“This agreement marks a milestone in efforts to clean up Superfund sites in the Great Lakes region, and especially to address the legacy of paper mill generated PCB contamination in the Kalamazoo River watershed,” said Assistant Attorney General Jeffrey Bossert Clark of the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division.  “Under this settlement, cleanup and restoration efforts will be accelerated and that’s really good news for communities in the region and the environment.”

“This is a terrific settlement,” said EPA Assistant Administrator for Enforcement and Compliance Assurance Susan Bodine.  “It not only ensures that responsible parties will continue to clean up contamination at the Kalamazoo River Superfund site, but also ensures that both past and future costs incurred by the EPA and the state will be recovered.”

“Today’s agreement is a big step towards cleaning up the Kalamazoo River,” said EPA Regional Administrator Cathy Stepp.  “This Administration is committed to cleaning up and restoring contaminated sites so they can be put back to productive use in the community.”

“This settlement is an important step for the State and the federal government in cleaning up contamination in and near the Kalamazoo River,” said Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel. “I look forward to continued cooperation with our federal partners on this site to benefit our communities – including the cities of Plainwell and Otsego, and the townships of Gun Plain, Otsego, and Trowbridge – and to protect public health, safety, and welfare.”

“This settlement represents substantial progress in the cleanup and restoration of the Kalamazoo River,” said Liesl Clark, Director of EGLE.  “The agreement requires NCR Corporation to take specific cleanup actions to address PCB contamination in and near the Kalamazoo River that will protect the public health and the environment.  It also provides funds for the selection of natural resource projects to restore natural resources and help compensate the public for lost recreational opportunities within this important Southwest Michigan watershed.”

This Superfund site has been listed on the EPA Administrator’s Emphasis List of Superfund sites targeted for immediate, intense action.  Each site on the list has a short-term milestone to provide the basis for tracking the site’s progress.

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 has agreed to 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; and
     
  • $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 450,000 cubic yards of contaminated material from the site, cleaned up and restored seven miles of the Kalamazoo River and banks, and capped 82 acres worth of contaminated material.

To learn more about this site, visit http://www.epa.gov/superfund/allied-paper-kalamazoo.

Background

EPA established the Administrator’s Emphasis List in December 2017 in response to recommendations from EPA’s Superfund Task Force.  The list is comprised of sites identified by Administrator Wheeler and the EPA regional offices that will benefit from the administrator’s immediate attention or action.

The list serves as a mechanism to address delays in the cleanup of significant Superfund sites by specifying milestones that will facilitate and accelerate a site’s cleanup progress.  EPA will consider removing a site from the list once the milestone is achieved and the cleanup activities at that site are back on track.  The list is updated quarterly with sites moving on and off the list as needed.  Removal from the Administrator’s Emphasis List does not change the site’s status on the NPL.

EPA remains committed to addressing risks at all Superfund sites, not just those on the Administrator’s Emphasis List. EPA continues to accelerate progress at all Superfund sites across the country.

The updated Administrator’s Emphasis List is available on the agency’s website at https://www.epa.gov/superfund/administrators-emphasis-list.

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Author: December 11, 2019

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