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Health officials: Graphic Packaging pollution report will be done when it's done

View of the front of city hall on a grey day. The tall windows and columns in between feature prominently.
Leona Larson
Kalamazoo City Hall, November 16, 2022

The City of Kalamazoo’s Environmental Concerns Committee pressed state health officials Wednesday on when they’ll finish an air pollution assessment.

State health officials are now reluctant to say when they’ll finish an assessment of air pollution in Kalamazoo. That’s after they missed a couple of tentative deadlines earlier this year. The study will look at the effects of emissions from North Side paper plant Graphic Packaging International.

Representatives from the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services attended a meeting of the City of Kalamazoo’s Environmental Concerns Committee at city hall Wednesday. Andrea Keatley is the MDHHS environmental assessment manager. She said the study is in its final stages.

“The report is currently going through our scientific review and will be released as soon as it is ready,” Keatley said.

“We have a community engagement and health assessment plan that was being developed that will be finalized prior to it being released,” she added. “As part of that we will have a public meeting, so that way we can present the health consultation to the public and have a question-and-answer time for that too.”

Keatley said emissions from the plant don’t pose an immediate threat to people who live near it.

Brandon Reid is a toxicologist with MDHHS.

“We do recommend speaking with your own doctor, physician, pediatrician, asking if you know if you have any specific vulnerabilities or specific susceptibilities to this, to the situation that may put you at a higher risk,” he said.

An independent study by a doctor based at Rush University in Chicago found significantly higher levels of asthma in residents living near the plant.

Leona Larson (Gould-McElhone) was a complaint investigator with the Detroit Consumer Affairs Department when she started her media career producing and co-hosting Consumer Conversation with Esther Shapiro for WXYT-Radio in Detroit while freelancing at The Detroit News and other local newspapers. Leona joined WDIV-TV in Detroit as a special projects' producer and later, as an investigative producer. She spent several years teaching journalism for the School of Communications at Western Michigan University. Leona prefers to use her middle name on air because it's shorter and easier to pronounce.