Read the full article by Ryan Boldrey (MLive)
“WHITE PIGEON, MI — The former home of the White Pigeon Paper Company — now owned and operated by Graphic Packaging International — will close by the end of June.
‘While the exact closure date will depend upon multiple business plan factors, the expected date of closure is June 30,’ the company’s general manager John Richter wrote in an April 28 letter filed with the Michigan Department of Labor and Economic Opportunity.
The WARN (Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification) notice, received by the state May 4, states that approximately 100 employees will be impacted by the closure. Separations of employment are expected to begin June 17.
The White Pigeon facility, located at 15781 River St., was acquired by Graphic Packaging in 2019.
The site was recently added to the state’s list of PFAS contamination sites on April 2, but company spokeswoman Sue Appleyard said the timing of that and the impending closure of the mill was completely coincidental.
According to the state, the groundwater from 16 of the monitoring wells tested at the White Pigeon site in 2019 were found to contain PFAS at concentrations exceeding the groundwater criteria.
PFAS are a family of thousands of synthetic chemicals used in many nonstick and waterproof products and firefighting foam. Exposure to the chemicals has been linked to health problems like cancer and autoimmune disease. They have been nicknamed ‘forever chemicals’ because the compounds resist breaking down in the environment.
The results of the 2019 PFAS testing came approximately three weeks prior to Graphic Packaging’s quarterly earnings meeting on April 21 when the decision to close was announced, Appleyard confirmed.
Appleyard said the company had already made the decision to close the mill prior to the meeting and prior to the discovery of the test results. She also said the company would do whatever is needed to ensure the site is cleaned up.
‘We’re a very responsible company so we are going to do whatever we need to do to make things right,’ she said.
Graphic Packaging has no plans to sell the facility and land at this time, and has not made any decisions in regard to future plans pertaining to the property, Appleyard said.
She said the White Pigeon mill, although only recently acquired, simply did not fit into the company’s overall portfolio.
‘When you acquire something you can only do so much due diligence,’ Appleyard said. ‘Once we integrated the mill into our company and realized what the associated costs really were and the production capability itself, being a small mill, it didn’t end up being a great fit in our overall portfolio’…”