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PCB cleanup in Portage Creek in Kalamazoo finishing under budget, ahead of schedule

Paul Ruesch
Environmental Protection Agency
EPA workers have dredge and refilled sections of Portage Creek in downtown Kalamazoo that were contaminated by PCBs. Soon the water will be rerouted through the creek.

For decades, paper mills dumped waste into the Kalamazoo River. Some of it had polychlorinated biphenyls; or PCBs. People can be exposed to PCBs by eating fish from the Kalamazoo River. PCBs can cause cancer, and other health problems.

Workers are wrapping up a projectto remove toxic chemicals from Portage Creek near downtown Kalamazoo.

“My expectation is the first couple of weeks in November we’ll be completely gone from Kalamazoo,” said Paul Ruesch. He’s the Environmental Protection Agency’s on scene coordinator for the Portage Creek project.

He says more than 17,000 cubic yards of contaminated material has been dredged. The project will be finishedmonths ahead of schedule and an estimated $4 million under budget. He credits good weather, a good crew and lots of cooperation and patience from property owners in the area.

The Kalamazoo Nature Center is planning to restore a large chunk of the site with natural plants; turning it into a public park.

“We’re very happy about this. There are lots of other areas in the Kalamazoo River that need attention and we’ll be able to shift our attention to keep this cleanup going,” Ruesch said.

This project is just one small cleanup site in an 80 mile stretch of the Kalamazoo River where PCBs are still a problem. The EPA has been working on the superfund site since 2002. It runs from near Battle Creek to Saugatuck, where the Kalamazoo River empties into Lake Michigan.

Lindsey Smith is a Peabody Award-winning journalist currently leading the station's Amplify Team. She previously served as Michigan Public's Morning News Editor, Investigative Reporter and West Michigan Reporter.
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