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TROWBRIDGE DAM REMOVAL: Highlighting MSG’s Dan Capone!

TROWBRIDGE DAM REMOVAL: Highlighting MSG’s Dan Capone!

By Jenny Hamel, Sustainability Coordinator & Dan Capone, Senior Project Manager

The Trowbridge Dam Area is part of the 80-mile long Kalamazoo River US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) classified Superfund Site. Due to an unfortunate history of the river being used as a discharge for historic paper company wastewaters, the river sediments, banks and floodplains are contaminated with Polychlorinated Biphenyls (PCBs), a probable human carcinogen. The 122 year old Trowbridge Dam just upstream of Allegan, MI was deteriorating and at risk to fail.  For this reason, the U.S. EPA pursued a time-critical removal action (TCRA) with the responsible party paper companies to address the failing Trowbridge dam and the sediments and river bank soils for 2.4-miles upstream of the dam that that would be at risk to erode and migrate downstream were the dam to fail. PCB-contaminated sediments and soils migrating downstream in a failing damn scenario would spread the contaminated sediments onto riverbanks and floodplains previously characterized as not having PCB contamination above risk-based levels. This may also require EPA to conduct response actions to address either human health threats related to direct exposure of residents or recreational users to riverbank/floodplain soils or exacerbated ecological threats at areas where responses may not otherwise be necessary.

For these reasons, the Trowbridge Dam Area was chosen as a contamination site requiring immediate EPA action for remediation efforts and dam removal. As part of these efforts, MSG was retained by US EPA Region 5 and Tetra Tech to provide technical support for the TCRA planning and implementation estimated to take 2-3 years to complete.

The MSG technical support activities are led by our Senior Project Manager Dan Capone, a seasoned biologist with a strong background in managing large-scale emergency response and remediation efforts.  Mr. Capone has a long history of supporting EPA response efforts along the Kalamazoo River, having spent 4.5 years providing technical support during the Enbridge Oil Spill cleanup efforts.  Mr. Capone also led MSG’s efforts in supporting EPA and Tetra Tech between 2015 and 2018 during the planning and implementation of the Otsego Township Dam TCRA, just 4.5 miles upstream of the Trowbridge Dam.

In December of 2019, a $245 million settlement (Consent Decree) was reached deeming NCR Corp the Responsible Party required to fund the remediation and future restoration operations, including the Trowbridge Dam TCRA. Dan has been leading the technical review of the Responsible Parties (RP) submitted design and work plans and managed staff conducting day-to-day oversight of RP contractor activities pre-design investigation activities, which included collection of split samples on behalf of EPA of the pre-design NCR samples.

The Trowbridge Dam will be the last publicly owned dam to be removed from the Kalamazoo River, completing a 35-year effort of dam removal along the channel. The Trowbridge Dam Area was one of the projects chosen by the Wildlife Division of the Department of Natural Resources to receive a $1.9 million grant from the Michigan Dam Management Grant Program which provides funding for repair or removal of dams across Michigan in order to restore natural resources and create a better experience of our state’s waterways for recreation and wildlife. The DNR used the grant money to complete Phase 1 dam stabilization efforts in 2019 at Trowbridge, which will allowed for the NCR Consent Decree to be finalized and the TCRA planning activities to commence.  This project is estimated to take three years to complete, and once the area has been determined safe, the plan is to create an opportunity for residents and tourists to use this section of the Kalamazoo River as an escape into nature that offers a worry-free space for boating, fishing, camping, and hiking.  MSG’s Wendy Fry has been providing support to EPA and Tetra Tech to develop conceptual design drawings that EPA is presenting to local stakeholder groups to spur discussion on what type of recreational opportunities would be best for the former dam area once the TCRA activities are completed.