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EPA Wants Otsego City Dam Gone, Kalamazoo River Realigned In Cleanup

A map of Area 2 of the Kalamazoo River cleanup between Plainwell and the Otsego City Dam. The lines in orange are the anabraches - which is where the EPA says most of the contamination lies.

Many people want to see the Otsego City Dam removed - including the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. The EPA unveiled possible options for the next phase of the Kalamazoo River cleanup - between Plainwell and the Otsego City Dam - Wednesday night. Most of those plans included removing the dam. 

The EPA wants to direct fish away from toxic PCBs in anabranches north of the river. Anabranches are parts of the river that split off from the main channel and rejoin it downstream. By realigning the main channel of the river, the EPA hopes to lower PCB levels in fish.

“If the fish are only living in the main river channel, and they’re not getting up into the contaminated anabranches maybe that will help us get those fish tissue concentration down and help solve that problem,” says Jim Seric, EPA remedial project manager for the Kalamazoo River Superfund.

Seric says getting rid of the dam would lower water levels in the river - likely drying up those contaminated areas. He says it’s a win-win for everyone:

“Michigan Department of Environmental Quality, DNR, Fish and Wildlife, NOAA, City of Otsego - everybody wants the dam out. Everybody would like to see this Otsego City Dam be taken out and in doing that it will allow more recreation, more fish passage. It’s kind of a good long-term solution.”

The EPA is in the very early stages of a plan for cleanup along the river for what's know as Area 2 of the Superfund site. The agency expects to announce their recommendation for the cleanup this summer.

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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