WMU News

Kalamazoo River cleanup funds okayed by Clinton

Oct. 21, 1999

KALAMAZOO -- A bill signed by President Clinton Oct. 19 will bring $1 million in federal funds to Southwest Michigan to boost efforts to clean up the Kalamazoo River.

The funding, set aside earlier this year and first announced by U.S. Rep. Fred Upton Aug. 2, was part of the VA/HUD Appropriations Bill. The $1 million will be used by Western Michigan University's new Environmental Institute to conduct a variety of studies, establish a sweeping information clearinghouse, and provide scientific information on issues affecting the Kalamazoo River watershed.

"The Kalamazoo River is a leading source of PCBs entering Lake Michigan," said Upton after the bill was signed. "It's a fact that can't be ignored and so far, too many words have been spoken and not enough action taken.

"This new funding for river cleanup will mark the first year of what I hope will become an ambitious multiyear project that will bring WMU's expertise and the community's commitment together to finally move clean-up efforts forward with sound science guiding the way," he said.

WMU President Elson S. Floyd praised the congressional efforts that led to the funding and said the river project dovetails perfectly with the University's research and public service missions.

"I can think of nothing more vital to the region's quality of life and economic health than a restoration of this important natural resource," said Floyd after hearing the news from Washington. "This funding will help us marshal the resources and talents of our finest environmental researchers in the effort to achieve that critical goal.

"With Rep. Upton's leadership, we received bipartisan support for this effort," Floyd continued, "and I'm extremely grateful to our congressional delegation for their work in making this funding possible."

WMU's Environmental Institute was established earlier this year by combining the University's Center for Environmental Research and its Environmental Studies Program. The institute focuses on research in such areas as environmental chemistry, geography, geosciences, biological sciences and statistics.

Environmental issues surrounding the Kalamazoo River watershed have been a major focus of the institute since its inception in April. The fate and transport of pollutants such as PCBs (polychlorinated biphenyls) in the river are a particular area of investigation for institute scientists and that work will be funded by the new award.

"Now that the funding is finalized, our first step will be to gather all the major stakeholders on the river project and prioritize the research issues," says Dr. Charles Ide, director of the Environmental Institute. "From preliminary discussions with those stakeholders, we already know one of the initial areas of focus will be conducting a health risk assessment that will be done at the molecular level."

Media contact: Cheryl Roland, 616 387-8400, cheryl.roland@wmich.edu

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