Waterway stays closed as more Kalamazoo River cleanup begins

OTSEGO, Mich. (AP) — The south banks of the Kalamazoo River will remain closed this summer as work begins upstream on four more areas needing river cleanup and restoration.

Sediments, riverbanks and floodplains from Kalamazoo to Lake Michigan are contaminated with toxic waste from paper mills that once dotted the river from Kalamazoo to Otsego. The 1.7-mile cleanup of polychlorinated biphenyls, or PCBs, started in Kalamazoo and has continued for the past few years in sections, the Kalamazoo Gazette reported.

Representatives from multiple environmental agencies, paper companies paying for the work and construction companies performing it met this week to show the progress on last year’s 3000-foot stretch of river. They also unveiled plans for this summer’s work that began this week.

They reported over 100 tons of sediments contaminated with PCBs were taken to a hazardous waste landfill from the stretch completed last year.

Like last year, the work for this area will rely on new technology to determine the location and amount of contamination, and on ancient natural methods such as strategic placement of logs, rocks, tree stumps and to restore the river.

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency on-scene coordinator Paul Ruesch says work will continue to completion regardless of EPA funding news from Washington.

“The project is all funded by the (paper mills responsible),” he said. “No worries.”

After work is completed in 2018, “there will be fishermen up and down” the river, and other recreational users as well, wildlife biologist Mark Mills said.

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