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E-M:/ Fwd: DEQ -State Seeks EPA Lead on Kalamazoo River Cleanup

Enviro-Mich message from "Jack, Rita" <ritaj@umflint.edu>

-----Original Message-----
From: Pat Watson [mailto:WATSONPE@STATE.MI.US]
Sent: Wednesday, July 25, 2001 10:31 AM
Subject: New DEQ Press Release - 7/25/01

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                           	
July 25, 2001                                   	

Contact: Ken Silfven
(517) 241-7397

State Seeks EPA Lead on Kalamazoo River Cleanup
Transition recognizes federal agency's ultimate control of site

The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality is asking the federal government to redesignate the Kalamazoo River Superfund site as a "federal lead" site.

In a letter to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, DEQ Director Russell Harding said that the transition more accurately reflects the EPA's increased level of involvement in the project.  The site currently is handled as a state enforcement lead even though the EPA controls critical aspects of the remedy selection process.

Harding pointed out that local environmental and citizen groups have advocated a federal lead.

"Area residents are understandably anxious to see a remedy put into place," Harding said.  "The state also is ready to move forward.  It is apparent, though, that the critical step is the completion of EPA's decision-making process.  While the DEQ will continue to have significant input, it is appropriate that the federal government assumes the formal lead."

Harding's letter outlines four reasons for the transition:

· The EPA advises that federal permits are needed for all remedial work conducted by the liable parties unless done under a legal agreement with the federal government.  Such a legal agreement does not exist, potentially posing an administrative burden to a cleanup performed under state lead.
· The liable parties must resolve their legal responsibilities with the EPA as well as with the state before they will implement a cleanup.  This requires the EPA to be intimately involved with the remedy selection and that the remedy be implemented in accordance with a legally binding agreement with the federal agency.
· The EPA is essentially controlling critical aspects of the remedy selection process.  EPA staff recently informed the state that substantial additional data collection is necessary to support the EPA's national decision-making process.  In addition, the EPA is raising new issues concerning the ecological and human-health risk assessments, which must be finalized in order to establish cleanup criteria and make decisions on a remedy for the river.
· The EPA is advising the state that the remedy also must be reviewed by outside entities such as the EPA's National Remedy Review Board before a course of action is finalized.  The state has no control over this review.

The DEQ will still provide technical assistance to the EPA.  It will remain involved in the investigation and cleanup work at the source areas to make sure they are secured.  The DEQ also will identify conditions that must be met to satisfy state law and protect public health.    

In 1987, the state filed suit against Allied Paper Inc. for releases of polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs).  The Kalamazoo River was designated as a federal Superfund site in 1990.

Fieldwork for the remedial investigation began in 1993 under state direction.  Since then, more than 500,000 tons of PCB-contaminated sediments and soils have been removed or isolated.  Last year, an investigation began in the lower reaches of the river with the collection of more than 1,300 sediment cores downstream of the Lake Allegan dam.

"The state intends to remain an active partner," Harding said.  "We believe that expediting a cleanup plan is in the best interests of area residents and the resource.  But the dual role of the state and federal governments has made it difficult for citizens to effectively follow the process.  This change will clarify the line of accountability for the public.  I encourage the EPA to work with us and make the transition plan a priority."


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