US EPA RAP Liaison
U.S. EPA, GLNPO
77 West Jackson Blvd. (G-17J)
Chicago, IL 60604-3590
State RAP Contact
Michigan Department of Environmental Quality – Water Bureau
525 W. Allegan Street
P.O. Box 30273
Lansing, MI 48909
Stephen K. Hamilton
269-978-4606 or 269-671-2231
President, Kalamazoo River Watershed Council
408 E. Michigan Avenue
Kalamazoo, MI 49007
Coordinator, Kalamazoo River Watershed Council
408 E. Michigan Avenue
Kalamazoo, MI 49007
Superfund Remedial Project Manager
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Region 5
77 W. Jackson Blvd. (SR-6J)
Chicago, IL 60604-3590
MDEQ, Superfund Remedial Project Manager
P.O. Box 30426
Lansing, MI 48909-7926
- Beneficial Use Impairments
- Delisting Targets
- RAP Development and Status
- Significant RAP Milestones
- RAP Implementation
- RAP-Related Publications
- Community Involvement
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The Kalamazoo River drains an extensive watershed in the southwest portion of the lower peninsula of Michigan. The river flows in a westerly direction and discharges into Lake Michigan near the town of Saugatuck. The upstream boundary of the Area of Concern (AOC) is Morrow Dam, which forms Morrow Pond, and the AOC extends downstream to Lake Michigan, a distance of approximately eighty miles. The city of Kalamazoo is situated along the AOC reach, and the city of Battle Creek is not far upstream. The Calkins Dam forms a reservoir of 1,600 acres (Lake Allegan) between Kalamazoo and Lake Michigan that traps most sediments and associated contaminants transported by the river. Between Morrow Dam and Lake Allegan are several smaller, decommissioned hydroelectric dams that are partially removed but may soon require further removal or repair due to their decrepit state. The dam removal effort will be complicated by the contaminated sediments trapped behind the dams.
Beneficial Use Impairments
- Restrictions on fish and wildlife consumption
- Degradation of fish and wildlife populations
- Beach closings
- Degradation of aesthetics
- Bird or animal deformities or reproduction problems
- Degradation of benthos
- Restriction on dredging activities
- Loss of fish and wildlife habitat
The Remedial Action Plan (RAP) process identified eight of the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement's 14 beneficial uses as being impaired. Beneficial use impairments in the AOC include Restrictions on Fish & Wildlife Consumption, Degradation of Fish and Wildlife Populations, Bird or Animal Deformities or Reproductive Problems, Degradation of Benthos, Restrictions on Dredging Activities, Beach Closings, Degradation of Aesthetics, and Loss of Fish and Wildlife Habitat. More details on these impairments, including a list of information sources, can be found in the Kalamazoo River Remedial Action Plan (RAP) (http://www.glc.org/spac/rapdocs.html)
The Kalamazoo River was listed as an AOC due to historic releases of polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), which originated primarily from de-inking operations at local paper mills. The Kalamazoo River has been identified as a site of environmental contamination pursuant to the Michigan Natural Resources and Environmental Protection Act 451 and is included in the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act (CERCLA), commonly known as Superfund.
Kalamazoo River priorities include remediation of PCB contaminated sediments in the river and in floodplain sites along the river, control of nonpoint source pollution (particularly phosphorus), and habitat restoration.
The Kalamazoo River Watershed Council is the local organization with the responsibility to initiate the BUI delisting process. The Council will partner with the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the International Joint Commission throughout the process to determine whether or not a BUI is restored and if it should be delisted from the AOC. In late 2005, the Council was awarded a grant from the U.S. EPA - Great Lakes National Program Office to revise the RAP for the AOC and to set their local delisting targets or accept the State of Michigan’s Guidance for Delisting Michigan’s Great Lakes Areas of Concern (PDF 508Kb, 61 pages).
RAP Development and Status
The U.S. EPA and the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ), with support from the Kalamazoo River Watershed Council and other local groups, coordinate efforts to restore beneficial uses in the AOC.
Since the PCB contamination was identified as a problem in the 1970’s, several actions have been taken to improve conditions within the AOC. The discharge of PCBs has been substantially reduced due to the ban on PCB production and other regulatory point source controls, such as the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit program. However, contaminated sediments in the river and adjacent floodplains continue to serve as a source of PCBs to the Kalamazoo River.
PCB-laden sediments eroding from Portage Creek banks at Bryant Mill Pond have been removed. PCB-contaminated soils at landfills have been contained. A remediation plan for PCB-contaminated sediments in and along the Kalamazoo River is being developed.
In 1998, the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality published the Kalamazoo River Remedial Action Plan. The RAP is currently being revised by the Kalamazoo River Watershed Council.
Significant RAP Milestones
- 2000: The Kalamazoo River RAP, written in 1998 by the
MDEQ and Kalamazoo River Watershed Council, was reprinted as The Kalamazoo
River: Beauty and the Beast
(PDF 2.58Mb, 60 pages).
- 1999: The Kalamazoo River PAC establishes itself as the Kalamazoo River Watershed Council (KRWC) with 501(c)3 status.
- 1998: MDEQ published the Kalamazoo River RAP.
- 1993: Kalamazoo River PAC established.
- 1987: Kalamazoo
River Remedial Action Plan – Second Draft
(PDF 9.36Mb, 279 pages) completed.
Recent progress and achievements
- In 2005, the KRWC undertook an educational campaign to reach out to riparian landowners and local governmental units in the vicinities of five aging dams to discuss the issues associated with their impending removal or repair. Funding came from the Kalamazoo Community Foundation.
- In November, 2004 the KRWC organized a Dam Removal Summit that brought together representatives from the U.S. EPA, MDEQ, and local governments to listen to advice and experiences of several consultants with expertise in dam removal as well as U.S. Geological Survey researchers working on the Kalamazoo River impoundments. Funding came from the Great Lakes Commission.
- In summers 2003-2005, the positive features of the river were highlighted through a series of public canoe tours ("Kanoe the Kazoo"), organized by the Kalamazoo River/Lake Allegan Watershed Phosphorus Reduction Committee and assisted by numerous local organizations including the Kalamazoo River Watershed Council and Michigan State University.
- In October 2003, the KRWC sponsored a Riverfest that included forums on the Superfund Site and on the Kalamazoo River/Lake Allegan TMDL program, as well as a keynote address by MDEQ Director Steve Chester.
- In 2001, the MDEQ and U.S. EPA established the Kalamazoo River/Lake Allegan TMDL (Total Maximum Daily Load) for phosphorus, in response to water quality problems ascribed to excessive algal growth in Lake Allegan, the largest reservoir on the river. Lake Allegan is on Michigan’s 303(d) list of impaired waters.
- In August 2001, the U.S. EPA effectively assumed the lead role in the Allied Paper, Inc./Portage Creek/Kalamazoo River Superfund Site, taking over from the MDEQ. EPA’s role became official in July 2002.
- In 2000, a Technical Assistance Grant (TAG) was awarded to the KRWC by U.S. EPA. For the ensuing 6 years that grant supported activities such as independent analysis of technical and scientific information, public meetings (River Roundtables), and newsletter mailings.
- In 2000, the Kalamazoo River RAP – written in 1998 by the MDEQ and KRWC – was reprinted, and the RAP has been approved as a Watershed Management Plan for the Kalamazoo River.
Current projects and outlook
- In late 2005, the KRWC was awarded a grant from the U.S. EPA – Great Lakes National Program Office to revise the Remedial Action Plan for the AOC during the coming year.
- A number of nonpoint source pollution control projects have been implemented in the Kalamazoo River watershed. Many of these projects are described at www.kalamazooriver.net. Tributaries with significant pollution problems have received the most attention, including several urban and agricultural drainages within the AOC reach (Davis Creek, Portage Creek, Arcadia Creek, Gun River, Rabbit River). Watershed Management Plans (WMPs) have been completed for all of these and implementation projects have been proposed or are in progress.
- The metropolitan areas including Kalamazoo and Battle Creek are engaged in MS4 stormwater management and the benefits of those activities should soon be apparent in the river.
- The Kalamazoo River/Lake Allegan TMDL (Total Maximum Daily Load) program has been active in pursuing water-quality data collection, voluntary tracking and reductions in phosphorus point sources, measures to reduce phosphorus nonpoint sources, and public outreach on water quality.
Additionally, since the PCB contamination was identified as a problem in 1971, several actions have been taken to improve conditions within the AOC including the following:
- The discharge of PCBs has been substantially reduced due to the ban on PCB production and other regulatory point source controls, such as the NPDES permit program. However, in-place contaminated sediments in the upstream areas remain a source of PCBs to the Kalamazoo River. The U.S. EPA Region 5 Emergency Response Branch has remediated the Bryant Mill Pond site on Portage Creek to protect the creek from receiving PCBs from the former mill pond.
- Since 1996, some progress has been made on remedial design and remedial action at several Operable Units (OUs) along the river, including the 12th St Landfill OU, Allied Paper Inc. OU, Willow Blvd/A Site OU, and the King Highway Landfill OU.
- Sheet steel piling was installed at contaminated landfill
sites along the Kalamazoo River to slow erosion of PCBs into the
river. The understanding is that the pilings would be an interim
measure at the Willow site and a permanent measure at the Kings
Highway Operable Unit. A decision has not been reached yet
related to OU 1, but it is anticipated that the sheet piling
will become a permanent part of the OU 1 remedy. Decisions on
the remediation of this Superfund Site have effectively been on
hold for the past several years.
- Records of Decision (RODs) for the remaining Superfund operable units are needed for remedial work to move ahead. Progress towards these has been delayed and ongoing discussions among government agencies and potentially responsible parties have been conducted out of public view.
- In addition, decisions on remediation of in-stream sediment contamination await the results of new modeling efforts currently being sponsored by the U.S. EPA. The modeling will lead to better understanding of hydrology and sediment dynamics and how they bear on PCB remediation options in the affected river reaches.
- The problem of the aging smaller dams and the contaminated sediments behind them has yet to be resolved, but must soon be because several of these dams were deemed to be unstable in recent dam safety inspections.
- The KRWC and other local groups continue to develop and distribute educational materials about the river, including its positive features as well as its problems, and actions that people can take to protect water quality and public health throughout the watershed.
- Watershed management projects in several sub-basins are working to reduce pollutant inputs and develop beneficial land use measures as well as to foster greater understanding of the problem among the public and local governments.
- Stormwater management plans and projects are underway in both Kalamazoo and Battle Creek.
- A phosphorus TMDL (Total Maximum Daily Load) for Lake Allegan and the river upstream of this reservoir has been established, and measures are being implemented to reduce phosphorus pollution from point and nonpoint sources and to involve diverse stakeholders. Significant phosphorus reductions have been achieved.
- 2007: The Michigan
Department of Environmental Quality Biennial Remedial Action
Plan Update for the Kalamazoo River Area of Concern
(PDF 504Kb, 23 pages)
- 2005: Draft Kalamazoo River Assessment, (PDF 908Kb, 15 pages) MDNR.
- 2005: Kalamazoo River Natural Resource Damage Assessment. Stage I Assessment Report: Kalamazoo River Environment, USFWS et al.
- EPA fact sheets and other documents: http://www.epa.gov/region5/sites/kalproject/index.htm.
- Western Michigan University GLEAMS web portal to information and data on the Kalamazoo River and Great Lakes
- TMDL for the Kalamazoo River/Lake Allegan site: http://kalamazooriver.net.
- Kalamazoo River Study Group – links to various technical reports.
- kalamazooriver.net – water resource information for the Kalamazoo River Watershed communities.
- 2000: Sediment Characteristics and Configuration within Three Dam Impoundments on the Kalamazoo River, Michigan.