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Kayakers on the Kalamazoo River, Michigan. Image credit: NOAA.
Two kayakers float on a blue river surrounded by trees with water plants visible beneath the surface.

$25 Million Recovered to Restore Natural Resources in Michigan's Kalamazoo River

December 3, 2020

A Consent Decree was entered  that includes $25 million as a partial settlement to restore natural resources injured by releases of hazardous substances to the Kalamazoo River and Portage Creek in Kalamazoo and Allegan Counties, Michigan. 

In addition to a partial settlement of natural resource damages, the Consent Decree requires the settling party, NCR Corporation, to implement specified clean-up actions, pay an additional amount for future clean-up actions, and reimburse state and federal response and damage assessment costs. 

NOAA and co-trustees will use the $25 million to plan and complete environmental restoration projects. These projects will both benefit injured natural resources, and compensate the public for lost recreational opportunities.

Restoration projects will be selected with public input. The Trustees invite interested parties to suggest habitat and recreational restoration project ideas to be considered as planning proceeds. Project ideas can be submitted at the Trustees online portal.

From the 1950s to the 1970s, paper mills in Kalamazoo disposed of waste and wastewater that contained polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs). Carbonless copy paper scraps containing PCBs as an ink carrier were used and disposed of during de-inking and as part of the production of new paper. PCBs were released into the soils, sediments, and surface water in the Kalamazoo River and Portage Creek. 

This resulted in injuries to natural resources including fish, mammals, and birds. Due to high levels of contamination in fish, advisories against human consumption of fish in any quantity are in place. 

In 1990, the U.S. EPA designated areas downstream of the releases of PCBs as the Allied Paper, Inc./Portage Creek/Kalamazoo River Superfund Site. The Trustees have previously used damages collected from bankruptcies for habitat restoration, including the Alcott Street Dam removal in Kalamazoo.  More information on the Kalamazoo Natural Resource Damage Assessment is avaliable on the Kalamazoo River case page.

For more information about the settlement, please contact Greg Baker.

For more information about restoration planning and submitting project ideas, please contact Julie Sims.