KALAMAZOO, Mich. — Officials with the Environmental Protection Agency and the State of Michigan took part in a virtual public meeting Monday, May 24, 2021 to answer questions regarding the upcoming cleanup of a toxic stretch of land in Kalamazoo.
The area is between Cork Street and East Alcott Street, with Portage Creek running through it. The soil there is contaminated with polychlorinated biphenyls, or PCB, a chemical shown to cause cancer in animals according to the EPA.
The PCB came from a landfill built by Allied Paper that was adjacent to Portage Creek. The EPA said Allied Paper used the landfill to dispose carbonless copy paper that contained PCB. The chemical was banned in 1979.
On Monday, officials with the EPA, the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy, and the City of Kalamazoo participated in a virtual meeting to discuss the cleanup project, set to begin in June 2021. They also answered questions from the public.
The property owner, the Lyondell Environmental Custodial Trust, was expected to perform the cleanup while the EPA supervises. Crews would consolidate the toxic soil, then put layers of clean soil over it. The clean soil would include 12 inches of backfill soil to serve as an interim cover and gas collection layer, a linear low-density polyethylene liner on top of that, then another 24 inches of backfill soil on top of the liner. The final layer would be 6 inches of topsoil.
"This is going to be a vast improvement over what it is now," Kalamazoo Mayor David Anderson said. "This is not going to be a dangerous area, a toxic area. It will be regulated. It will be monitored."
Anderson said once the cleanup was complete, the land could accommodate a variety of uses.
"We're hoping to have a trail that will go along Portage Creek there. That's a passive use. We're going to create 26 acres that will be a natural prairie site that could be of passive use," Anderson said. "If I have a dream there, and we already had conversations about this, is that I would like to see us install a solar array."
The EPA said the cleanup was expected to take four years. Although truck traffic would increase around the work site, crews would monitor noise levels and wet down the soil to prevent toxic particles from going airborne.
"When we transform this area, that's going to be transformative for the neighborhood and other adjacent businesses around it," Anderson said. "I think it will now come to be seen as a place to be in Kalamazoo."
The Former Allied Paper Landfill is part of the Allied Paper Inc.-Portage Creek-Kalamazoo River Superfund site, which is comprised of six segments in Kalamazoo and Allegan counties. The EPA said since 1998, it has removed almost 470,000 cubic yards of contaminated material from the site, cleaned up and restored 12 miles of the Kalamazoo River and its banks, and capped 82 acres in contaminated material.
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