State plans to remove crumbling dam on Kalamazoo River amid contamination cleanup

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OTSEGO TOWNSHIP, Michigan — Work could begin as early as this summer to remove a crumbling dam that helps keep contaminated sediments from heading down the Kalamazoo River toward Lake Michigan, state officials said.

Failure of the state-owned dam in Otsego Township, which the state said is possible, would complicate efforts to clean up polychlorinated biphenyls, also known as PCBs, the Kalamazoo Gazette reported (http://bit.ly/1yzdMIU ). The stretch of river is part of the federal Superfund program designated for eventual cleanup of PCBs once used in papers mills that lined the river.

Mark Mills, Michigan Department of Natural Resources wildlife biologist in Allegan County, said work could begin this summer to create a temporary structure and reroute the river to safely contain contaminated sediments until they are removed.

After the cleanup, the structure and the original Otsego Dam remnants would be taken out, restoring the river to its natural course.

The Michigan Department of Natural Resources Wildlife Division was recently awarded $102,050 to provide further assistance to fund the dam removal project. Last year the project received $725,000 as part of the DNR's Dam Management Grant Program. Mills said the state has no certain estimate of how much the removal will cost, but that it could add up to $3 million.

The dam, located near the Bittersweet Ski Resort, no longer generates power or holds back water but still serves the important function of holding back sediments.

A similar dam-removal effort took place in the Plainwell area. That work, completed in 2010, removed 17,100 cubic yards of contaminated soil and sediment laden with PCBs from 11,000 feet of riverbank north and south of the Plainwell No. 2 dam.


Information from: Kalamazoo Gazette, http://www.mlive.com/kalamazoo

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