Environmental activists demanding action after spill in Kalamazoo River

Posted at 4:58 PM, Oct 21, 2022

KALAMAZOO, Mich. — The city of Kalamazoo announced Thursday that it confirmed an “accidental liquid release” at the Graphic Packaging Plant along the Kalamazoo River.

FOX 17 learned it’s not the first time Graphic Packaging International has raised environmental concerns.

“This spill is just another, you know, slap to everyone’s face,” Brandi Crawford-Johnson, a local environmental activist, told FOX 17 Friday. “They should be assessing the neighborhood immediately, and [these] chemicals can leak into the groundwater. They can leak into the soil. There can be air emissions that come off of these chemicals.”

The city was alerted of the supposed accidental spill of process waste into the Kalamazoo River’s storm sewer system just after 6:30 a.m. Thursday.

The city says an internal sump belonging to Graphic Packaging International overflowed.

This allowed 1,500-2,000 gallons of what they believe was industrial wastewater from the paper recycling process to seep into a ditch that drains into the Kalamazoo River.

The city says it will assess the spill’s impact.

In the meantime, the city advises people to stay off of and away from the river until further notice.

“I’m not gonna stop fighting for these people and you’re gonna have to do something to fix this,” Crawford-Johnson added. “I just can’t stop fighting because, not only do I have family that still lives there, I have friends and I care about everyone there.”

Crawford-Johnson says she’s been pushing local and federal agencies to take action against Graphic Packaging International for two years.

The Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy (EGLE) issued the company a violation notice on September 8 for installing equipment different from what was permitted, not keeping appropriate records and failing a stack test.

City crews pumped liquid from the storm drain Friday and rerouted it to the Kalamazoo Wastewater Reclamation Plant to be treated.

Crawford-Johnson feels that if the factory continues to operate as is, the pollution will continue. She worries about people living in the area.

“These people should be in Industrial Park, not next door to human beings living and breathing. It’s just insane,” she added.

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