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Monday, January 3, 2005
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U.S. Reaches Settlement With Weyerhaeuser Company To Clean Up Paper Mill And Landfill Along The Kalamazoo River

WASHINGTON, D.C. - The Justice Department and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency today announced a settlement that will require Weyerhaeuser Company to clean up the Plainwell Mill and 12th Street Landfill in Plainwell, Michigan, which are portions of the Kalamazoo River Superfund site. The settlement will also require Weyerhaeuser to reimburse EPA for approximately $138,000 in costs incurred in connection with the mill and landfill.

In addition to paying EPA’s past costs, Weyerhaeuser will pay $6.2 million which EPA will use to fund the cleanup of polychlorinated biphenyl (PCB) contamination in the Kalamazoo River. The settlement also requires Weyerhaeuser to withdraw its objections to a related settlement with Plainwell, Inc. , its corporate parent and several affiliated companies, which is now pending in bankruptcy court. Implementation of the Plainwell settlement will make additional cleanup funds available for cleanup and investigation of the site.

“This settlement demonstrates that even at big, complicated sites, with creative enforcement we can fashion settlements that are fair to all parties and keep the cleanup moving forward,” said Thomas L. Sansonetti, Assistant Attorney General for the Environment and Natural Resources Division. “Not only does today’s action signal the government’s commitment to cleaning up the contamination, it means real benefits for the health and safety of the Weyerhaeuser site.”

Weyerhaeuser is one of several companies responsible for PCB contamination at the Kalamazoo River Superfund Site, which includes the mill, the landfill, a portion of the Kalamazoo River, and other areas. The PCB contamination at the site resulted primarily from paper companies which produced and processed PCB-containing carbonless copy paper along the river between the 1950s and 1970s. EPA estimates that there are hundreds of thousands of pounds of PCBs in the soil and sediment at the Site. Investigations at the site indicate that PCB contamination has had an adverse impact on bird and fish populations. For several decades, fish consumption advisories have urged consumers to limit the type and amount of fish that they eat from the river.

“Cleaning up the mill and landfill are important steps to keeping additional PCBs from getting into the Kalamazoo River,” said Richard Karl, Director of the Superfund Division for EPA Region 5, headquartered in Chicago. “And the money Weyerhaeuser will pay under the settlement will kick start the ongoing study of how best to clean up the river itself.”

The settlement does not resolve Weyerhaeuser’s liability for the cleanup of PCBs at any part of the site other than the mill and landfill. Nor does it resolve Weyerhaeuser’s liability for natural resource damages at the site.

The settlement agreement was filed with the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Michigan and is subject to a 15-day public comment period.