GP restores, improves Verburg Park in Kalamazoo, Michigan, after using it as base of operations during most recent cleanup phase of Kalamazoo River Superfund site; cleanup team used barges, excavators to dredge river for sediment contaminated with PCBs

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January 11, 2024 (press release) –

Kalamazoo, Michigan - After taking over a local park for more than a year, Georgia-Pacific was committed to giving the space back to the city of Kalamazoo, Michigan, in better shape than they found it.

Georgia-Pacific used Verburg Park as a base of operations during the most recent phase of the cleanup of the Kalamazoo River Superfund site. When that phase of the river cleanup was complete, Georgia-Pacific worked with the city not only to restore the park to its original state but to improve it. The park reopened on Dec. 1, 2023, with an upgraded boat launch, resealed and restriped asphalt, new grass and vegetation, removal of old and unused park facilities and more trees than when it closed in March 2022.

Georgia-Pacific made those improvements as part of the company’s commitment to stewardship, accountability and integrity.

“Having to inconvenience the local residents for more than a year was not ideal," said Scott Keesling, director of remediation services at Georgia-Pacific. “But when you truly look at our stewardship principles, you understand that working in a community is being a part of that community, so you leave things in a better state than you found them. We left the city a park they can be proud of.”

Verburg Park sits right on the Kalamazoo River, making it a convenient location for a sediment processing area (SPA) during the river cleanup. Partnering with the city of Kalamazoo and Sevenson Environmental Services, Georgia-Pacific cleared a portion of the park to prepare for processing of excavated river sediment.

The cleanup team used barges and excavators to dredge the river for sediment contaminated with polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), a group of carcinogenic chemicals. The team brought the sediment back to the SPA and added dry cement as a stabilizing agent. Once processed, the dried sediment was sent to landfills approved and permitted by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)

Once Georgia-Pacific had finished dredging that section of the waterway, they moved downriver to continue the cleanup. But the company believed it was important to return the park to the city in a condition that would make the community excited to use it again.

Georgia-Pacific provided the city two trees for every one that had to be removed. The company worked with the city arborist to select the best tree species and planting locations. Georgia-Pacific planted one set of trees in the park and provided a second set for planting in other locations throughout the city. The company also repaired and widened a boat launch in the park, which had been in poor condition before the park closed, repaired asphalt in the parking lot and re-established full grass cover in areas that were disturbed. The city kept the park closed for several months after the planting was finished to allow the new grass and vegetation time to grow so the park could be in the best condition possible for the public.

“That’s what we should do,” Scott said of the work to revitalize the park. “We want to set the expectation that we’re going to turn it back over and you’re going to be happy with it. We want you to feel like that was worth it to lend your property to us long enough to do this work that was necessary.”

Superfund sites are areas polluted with hazardous materials that require long-term remediation efforts as designated by the EPA. The Allied Paper/Portage Creek/Kalamazoo River Superfund site spans more than 70 miles of the river between the city of Kalamazoo and Lake Michigan. The EPA named Georgia-Pacific and International Paper as responsible parties in the river cleanup.

Georgia-Pacific upgraded the boat launch at Verburg Park, which had fallen into disrepair.

Georgia-Pacific repaved and restriped one of the parking lots at Verburg Park.

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environmental stewardship

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