A $245-million settlement to clean up the Kalamazoo River will be the topic of a meeting Tuesday, January 7. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency negotiated the consent decree with NCR Corporation.
The agreement is part of the larger Kalamazoo River-Allied Paper Superfund site. Some of the money will pay for the removal of the deteriorating Trowbridge dam in Allegan County. Kenneth Kornheiser, M.D., is the president of the Kalamazoo River Watershed Council. He says many dams on the river, including Trowbridge, no longer serve a purpose other than keeping PCB pollution from spreading.
“We think that the dams need to be removed before they fail and we have catastrophic flooding. Any flood, even if there is no contamination, can produce a lot of damage downstream. Something has to be done now.”
Other priorities include restoring sections of the river in Plainwell and Otsego. Those projects will probably take a decade to complete. But Kornheiser says they won’t begin to fix all of the damage done over the years.
“It took about 20 years to pollute the river. And it will take two to three times that to get it restored.”
Dan Peabody is the Kalamazoo River project manager for the state’s Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy. He says the amount of the settlement is a little out of the ordinary.
“If you look at the total of a $245 million consent decree then I would say, yes, something like that is a little rare. We typically don’t get a lot of parties that want to settle.”
Peabody says removing the dam and restoring parts of the Kalamazoo River in Plainwell and Otsego will have economic as well as environmental benefits.
“All of the workers, everything being use is going to be pulled locally so, even just on a micro scale, the economic scale, these communities should really benefit.”
The public meeting on the Kalamazoo River clean-up plan starts Tuesday, January 7 at 6 p.m. at Otsego Township Hall, 400 N. 16th Street, in Otsego.