The Environmental Protection Agency has proposed a plan to clean PCBs out of a 3-mile stretch of the Kalamazoo River. It would remove contaminated soil and sediment from Morrow Dam near Comstock to the city of Plainwell. The EPA would also take more PCBs out of Portage Creek.
The proposed cleanup would take about two years to complete and cost up to $23 million - that would only clean up the most contaminated areas. Jim Saric is the EPA’s Remedial Project Manager for the Superfund site. He says if the EPA goes ahead with this plan, it will still be about 32 years until residents can safely eat Kalamazoo River fish more than 10 times a month.
“We certainly hope we can bring that down for sure certainly to two meals a month type of thing and do that sooner than 32 years to get to that level. But that 32 year time frame is based on what we consider an angler - a sport angler eating 125 meals a year of the smallmouth bass," says Saric.
Saugatuck Township resident Dale Harrison is the president of the Kalamazoo River Protection Association - a local environmental group. He says it has taken the EPA 20 years to clean up PCBs along the river so far. Harrison argues the EPA has the resources to move more quickly.
“We’ve known for a long time since the early 1980s a lot of areas of the river that are really heavily contaminated like in the Trowbridge impoundment, the Otsego impoundment,the Plainwell impoundment, and also Lake Allegan. So those are the areas where the focus should be primarily," he says. "We’re spending a lot of time upstream in areas where the PCB contamination is there but it’s not nearly as serious a threat as it is in the areas downstream.”
You can submit a comment to the EPA on the Kalamazoo River cleanup plan through June 3rd.