Liability for Environmental Cleanup

For the first 50 to 60 years the paper mills in Kalamazoo made paper products from virgin paper pulp. Starting in the 1950's, the mills begin to recycle waste paper for stock (this is sometimes called "de-inked pulp"). Mixed in with this waste paper was carbonless copy paper, often called NCR (No Carbon Required) paper. This paper was sold by the NCR (National Cash Register) corporation. Between at least 1957 and 1971 it contained PCBs as part of the ink carrier (the carrier is the fluid the ink is dissolved in). The PCBs themselves were manufactured by Monsanto. Carbonless copy paper was never manufactured in Kalamazoo. PCBs were present in wastewater solely from the recycling process, which included de-inking. The suspended particles in the paper mill waste water, primarily cellulose and clay, absorbed or contained high concentrations of PCBs. Settling lagoons were created to trap most of these suspended particles. The clarified water from the lagoons was discharged into Portage Creek.

The 1967 map below shows the settling lagoons (called waste disposal ponds on the map) where the PCB-contaminated material was sent to. The Bryant Mill lagoons are to the north and west of Portage Creek. The single Monarch Mill lagoon is to the south and east of the creek. The circles in that area are clarifiers, one of which still stands. 

Click here for some 2011 photos of the superfund
landfill at the Bryant Mill site

The legacy of this practice was a huge amount of PCB-containing material in the Monarch and Bryant lagoons and the Bryant Mill Pond. These came primarily from the de-inking operations in Bryant Mill A. PCBs also traveled along Portage Creek and into the Kalamazoo River. MDEQ estimates that the area between the Monarch and Bryant Mill mill sites contains over 110,000 pounds of PCBs and has over 8 million cubic yards of contaminated material.

Allied Paper was held legally responsible for cleanup of the lagoons and ponds used by the Monarch and Bryant Mills. Along with Georgia Pacific it was held legally responsible for the cleanup of PCBs in the Kalamazoo River.

The Bryant Mill was leased by Allied Paper in 1956 for 10 years from the St. Regis Paper Co and purchased outright in 1960. Allied had owned the Monarch Mill since its formation in 1922. The Allied Paper Corporation was bought by the Smith-Corona-Marchant (SCM) Corporation in 1967 and became the paper-making division of that entity. Then in the late 1980's, SCM was bought by Hanson PLC, a British conglomerate. In 1988, the Allied Paper Bryant Mill was sold to Michael Gallenberger, who formed a company called Performance Papers. However, the liability for the cleanup of Portage Creek and the Kalamazoo River stayed with Hanson PLC.

In 1996, Hanson split and the liability was transferred to a brand -new company named Millennium Chemical. In 1997, Millennium merged with Lyondell and then in 2007 Lyondell merged with Basell to become LyondellBasell, headquartered in the Netherlands. Cleanup of sediment in the Kalamazoo River at Plainwell and Otsego has been accomplished, partly funded by LyondellBasell. In early 2009 LyondellBasell went bankrupt and as part of a 2010 bankruptcy agreement $103 million has been allocated for the Kalamazoo River Superfund Site. $50 million of this money is to fund a private trust that will own the landfill between the Bryant-Monarch Mill sites and clean it up.

There is a great deal of information available online about the cleanup efforts, since activities have been ongoing since 1993. The March 2008 report prepared for MDEQ by Camp Dresser and McKee Inc contains a lot of analytical information about the Bryant-Monarch Superfund Site. The 2009 feasibility study, which details the remediation options, can obtained at the City Of Kalamazoo web site. Be aware that it is 360 pages long! Also read the MDEQ webpage describing the site. The specific cleanup plan has not yet been selected.

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Last Edited by JMW 07/27/11