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Sediment characteristics and configuration within the Otsego City Dam impoundment on the Kalamazoo River, Michigan, 2001-02

October 1, 2004

The removal of the Otsego City Dam on the Kalamazoo River at Otsego, Mich., is under consideration by the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality and the city of Otsego. The historical discharge of papermill waste containing polychlorinated biphenyls from sources upstream from the dam has led the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to designate the Kalamazoo River from Morrow Dam near Comstock to its mouth near Saugatuck as a Federal Superfund site. The papermill waste is concentrated in organic sediment and kaolinite clay, with the sediment containing as much as 94 milligrams per kilogram polychlorinated biphenyls. This contaminated sediment could move if the dam is removed; therefore, it is necessary to estimate the characteristics and configuration of the sediment before removal plans begin.

Data from augered sections and sediment cores show that the current Otsego City impoundment sediments were deposited in two distinctly different sedimentary environments: (1) lacustrine sediments consisting of organic-rich silt and clay, fine to medium sand, and some gravel deposited in a repetitive, cyclic fashion related to former stream velocities when the Otsego City impoundment water levels were 2-4 feet higher (1880s-1960s), and from downstream movement of lacustrine sediments during the removal of the upstream Plainwell Dam superstructure in the 1980s; and (2) more recent (1980s-2002) coarse-grained alluvium deposited on top of the lacustrine sediments. The volume of instream sediment contained within the Otsego City impoundment is estimated to be about 457,270 cubic yards. This estimate is based on the composite thicknesses of the lacustrine deposits and overlying alluvium, which were determined to contain PCBs, and does not include bank or flood-plain deposits.