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A contaminated groundwater plume that caused residents in Kalamazoo County, MI, to get new water sources has moved west, crossing into neighboring Van Buren County.

Contaminants have been detected in residential wells in Van Buren County’s Almena Township through recent testing, though an official said the plume is not expected to move much further. 

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The contamination comes from Kalamazoo County’s KL Landfill in Oshtemo Township and is also shrinking as it moves, said Daniel DeWitt, environmental legal counsel to the KLA Group. 

“Think of a puddle on a very slight slope, trickling down in one direction, while also evaporating and getting smaller at the same time,” DeWitt said. “This is geologic movement, so inches per week.” 

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The 61-acre landfill in Oshtemo Township opened in 1955 and was operated as a private dump, then as the Oshtemo Township landfill and finally as a landfill for Kalamazoo County. It was closed in 1979 after contaminants were found in nearby residential wells, and it was designated a federal Superfund site in 1982. 

The KLA Group, which includes Oshtemo Township, Kalamazoo County, the city of Kalamazoo and Pfizer Inc., has worked under U.S. Environmental Protection Agency oversight since 1992 to complete cleanup on the site. Other parties deemed responsible for the waste have contributed money to settle their liabilities. 

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