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Bioremediation Company Says They Can Clean Up Allied Paper Landfill

The EPA's current plan for Allied Paper Landfill
courtesy photo

The public has little more than a week to comment on a plan for the Allied Paper Landfill site. The Environmental Protection Agency and the City of Kalamazoo collaborated to come up with the design. It would cap the toxic PCB waste, but leave more room for redevelopment. But Thursday night, one company suggested the city take a different approach. 

BioPath Solutions is a new bioremediation startup - a company that uses natural microorganisms to break down pollutants. The company claims it can clean up the majority of the PCBs at the Allied Paper Landfill for $25 million less than the EPA’s proposed plan. 

“And it’s an elegantly simple, completely green and sustainable process. And it’s something that we think is extremely important not only here in Michigan, but across the country,” says Chris Young, chief technical consultant for BioPath.

To remediate a site, BioPath introduces a material that unbinds chlorine from the PCBs, which allows natural bacteria to break down the waste. But Michael Berkoff, the EPA’s project manager for the site, says he’s skeptical that the process will work.

“Well the PCBs are basically impermeable material already. So to get liquid to that, it would be very difficult. They would have to churn it up and it doesn’t seem…I’m waiting to hear how they would get this done,” says Berkoff.

At Thursday night’s meeting, several residents were excited by the idea of neutralizing the waste. But Kalamazoo Deputy City Manager Jeff Chamberlain says this new technology is not tried and true yet. The city needs a solution right now.

“If something new comes up a year, two years down the road that could change it or could be a new technology, we’ll be open to looking at that. The key thing though is we want to keep this process moving so we can clean the site and make it available for the public for economic development and recreation,” says Chamberlain.

BioPath Solutions’ President Mick Warner says it’s unlikely that the City of Kalamazoo will revisit this issue in a few years. By that time, the money for the project will be gone. BioPath wants Kalamazoo residents to submit formal comments to the EPA, supporting their private remediation efforts at Allied Landfill.

Rebecca Thiele was an environmental reporter and producer of Arts & More for WMUK. She worked at the station from 2011 to 2019.
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