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Congressional District # 06


EPA ID# MID980794382
Last Updated: July, 2015

Site Description

The 1.5 acre Auto Ion Chemicals, Inc., (Auto Ion) Superfund site is 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, Auto Ion treated chromium plating wastes at its facility and stored liquid waste in an open air lagoon and in five process storage tanks located in the basement of one of the facility buildings. About 122,000 gallons of liquid plating wastes and sludges were stored in other various locations on site. During the plant's operation, the Michigan Department of Natural Resources (MDNR) documented numerous instances of discharges of contaminants to the soil, groundwater, and to 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 and about 2,300 residents live within one-half mile.

EPA placed the Auto Ion site on the Superfund National Priorities List in 1983.

Site Responsibility

The Auto Ion site was addressed through potentially responsible party (PRP) actions under federal and state oversight.

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 if contaminated groundwater or soils were ingested.

Cleanup Progress

Under EPA's oversight, the Auto Ion potentially responsible parties (PRPs) removed contaminants from the surface of the site in 1985. An abandoned building was torn down in 1986 and the debris was removed. The entire site was also 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 PAHs. The contaminated soil was taken to licensed 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 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 on-site 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.

EPA conducted Five-Year Reviews (FYRs) of the effectiveness of the remedy at the site in 2001, 2006, and 2011. The 2011 FYR report concluded that the remedy is protective in the short term because potential exposure risks have been addressed and the groundwater is being monitored. Additionally, the 2011 FYR report 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. In September 2012, the PRPs began a stream study at the Kalamazoo River to determine if any of the contaminants from the site were impacting river water quality. Surface water and pore water data were collected in September 2012 from locations in the river identified in a preliminary survey conducted the week before the sampling. Based on the results of the first sampling event, EPA, with assistance from MDEQ, determined that a second round of sampling was is necessary. The PRPs conducted the second sampling event in September 2014. The PRPs submitted a draft Surface Water Investigation Report in January 2015. EPA and MDEQ have provided the PRP contractor with comments on the Report. The PRP contractor will revised the document and resubmit it to EPA for final review and approval. At that time the document will be made a part of the public record for the site. EPA will evaluate the results to determine if there is potential impact to the river and if any further cleanup action is necessary. 

The 2011 FYR report further stated that the remedy will be effective in the long term once institutional controls are in place to restrict groundwater use. The appropriate institutional controls have been put in place and in September 2013, EPA declared the Auto Ion site as "Site-wide Ready for Anticipated Use."

EPA has notified the MDEQ that preparation for the fourth Five Year Review, due in April 2016, has begun.


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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