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Cleanup will likely continue at the Allied Paper Superfund site through 2026

large mound of dirt surrounded by grass
Jessi Phillips
The EPA said it's consolidating the contaminants and will cap them at the site.

The EPA says rain has delayed completion of the project.

The Allied Paper Superfund site in Kalamazoo’s Milwood neighborhood looks like a moonscape. Bulldozers move piles of dirt into a giant mound in the center of the nearly 90-acre property.

The Environmental Protection Agency says it’s making progress with the cleanup. But what’s it like to live next to the site?

Pat DeKoff and I stand in her expansive yard which overlooks the onetime paper mill property. She and her husband have lived in this house for more than thirty years, and she grew up in the neighborhood.

“They move dirt from here to there,” she said. “All day long every day.”

The Allied Paper Company used toxic chemicals known as PCBs in production in the 1950s through 70s. The EPA added the abandoned factory to the Superfund program in 1990.

Cleanup at Allied Paper didn’t start until 2021. The toxic waste will be consolidated and sealed at the site. The EPA originally set a completion target of 2024. But site leader Michael Berkoff said excessive rain has complicated the project.     
“And even after those rains, that significant amount of time spent was spent on de-watering the property after rain events,” said Berkoff. “So I think that 2026 is more realistic endpoint for us.”

Wildflowers and grass  with a large mound of dirt in the background
Jessi Phillips
Wildflowers and grass have grown back along Portage Creek, which runs along the edge of the Allied Paper site.

Allied Paper is one of two Kalamazoo-area Superfund sites where environmental agencies are still cleaning up PCBs. The other is the Kalamazoo River. The EPA said it has been monitoring air quality around the Allied Paper site, and has not detected any issues.

Pat DeKoff remembers a time after the factory closed but before the cleanup began, when the site was home to deer and foxes.

“Like I said, it was beautiful at one time,” she said. “And maybe it will be again. I don’t mind having a mountain in the back.”