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Congressional District # 06


EPA ID# MID980794382
Last Updated: February, 2012

Site Description

The Auto Ion Chemicals, Inc., Superfund site is a 1.5 acre site located in Kalamazoo, Michigan.  From 1914 to 1956, the city of Kalamazoo operated a coal burning electrical generating station on the site.  Between 1964 and 1973, chromium plating wastes were treated at the Auto Ion site.  Liquid waste was stored in an open air lagoon and in five process storage tanks in an onsite building basement.  Approximately 122,000 gallons of liquid plating wastes and sludges were stored in other various locations onsite.  During the plant's operation, the Michigan Department of Natural Resources (MDNR) documented numerous pollution discharges to the soil, groundwater, and surface water of the adjacent Kalamazoo River.  MDNR ordered Auto Ion to cease operations in 1973.  The closest residence is located about 500 feet north of the site.  Approximately 2,300 residents live within one-half mile of the site. 

Site Responsibility

This site was addressed through PRP-lead actions conducted under federal enforcement authorities.

Threats and Contaminants

Groundwater was contaminated with volatile organic compounds (VOCs), including trichloroethene (TCE) and vinyl chloride, and several heavy metals, including arsenic, cadmium, lead, and nickel.  Chromium, nickel, chloride, and cyanide were detected in surface water and sediment samples collected from the Kalamazoo River.  Site soil was contaminated with chromium, arsenic, cadmium, lead, nickel, cyanide, and organic contaminants, known as polyaromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs).  Potential health risks existed from ingestion of contaminated groundwater or soils. 

Cleanup Progress

Under U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (U.S. EPA) oversight, the potentially responsible parties (PRPs) removed contaminants from the surface of the site in 1985.  The abandoned building was torn down in 1986, and the debris was removed. Additionally, the entire site was fenced to prevent access to contaminated soil and groundwater. In 1993, forty-two PRPs, working under a Consent Decree, excavated approximately 24,000 tons of soil that was contaminated with chromium, arsenic, cadmium, lead, nickel, cyanide, and organic PAHs.  The contaminated soil was taken to licensed and managed landfills in Ohio and Michigan, and the site was backfilled with clean soil.  The soil excavation eliminated the risk of people coming into direct contact with the contaminated soil and removed the major source of contamination to underlying groundwater. 

The final remedy selected by U.S. EPA in 1994 called for long-term monitoring of groundwater and steps to be taken to ensure contaminants remain at levels that do not raise concerns about adverse impacts to the Kalamazoo River.  Under a 1996 Consent Decree, the PRPs installed new monitoring wells in 1997 and began to routinely monitor groundwater.  To date, levels of contaminants in onsite monitoring wells have not raised a concern about impacts to the river, however, due to residual levels of contamination, institutional controls ("deed restrictions") will be placed on the property to prevent future use of groundwater.

Five-Year Reviews of the effectiveness of the remedy were conducted in 2001, 2006, and 2011. The 2011 review concluded that the remedy is effective in the short term because potential exposure risks have been addressed and the groundwater is being monitored. The 2011 Five-Year Review further stated that the remedy will be effective in the long term once institutional controls are in place to restrict groundwater use. The responsible parties are currently working with the state of Michigan to put these institutional controls in place.  Additionally, the 2011 Five-Year Review conducted a trend analysis of all of the site ground water sampling results.  The trend analysis concluded that there are increasing trends in arsenic and chromium in some site wells.  EPA is working with the responsible parties to conduct a stream study of the Kalamazoo River to determine if any of the contaminants from the site are impacting the river.



Remedial Project Manager, U.S. EPA
timothy drexler (drexler.timothy@epa.gov)
(312) 353-4367

Community Involvement Coordinator, U.S. EPA
cheryl allen
(312) 353-6196




Site Profile Information

This profile provides you with information on EPA's cleanup progress at this Superfund site.


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