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Midwest Environmental Justice Organization Joins National People’s Task Force on Superfund’s Future

Midwest Environmental Justice Organization Joins National People’s Task Force on Superfund’s Future

The Midwest Environmental Justice Organization (MEJO) joins more than 20 Superfund sites and 70 environmental organizations on the “People’s Task Force on the Future of Superfund,” which has outlined citizens’ recommendations on the EPA’s Superfund Program. See the People’s Task Force recommendations here.

The grassroots People’s Task Force, reflecting voices of communities dealing with pollution all over the U.S., is taking action after learning that the Trump Administration and newly-appointed EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt’s proposed budget includes a 30% cut in funding to the Superfund. Also, last month Pruitt assembled a Task Force to provide Superfund recommendations that will decrease cleanup oversight, privilege corporate interests over public health, and weaken transparency and community involvement.

 

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Foxconn’s Horrific Worker Safety & Environmental Record Coming to Wisconsin??

Foxconn’s Horrific Worker Safety & Environmental Record Coming to Wisconsin??

Photo: Fire at Foxconn factory in China.

“State officials and lawmakers are working on an incentive package to lure giant Taiwanese iPhone manufacturer Foxconn to Wisconsin,” the Wisconsin State Journal reported on July 21, 2017.

Foxconn would like to build a $7 billion plant in the U.S. to build display panels for Apple iPhones and iPads, and is considering several states for a factory. Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald told WSJ that lawmakers are talking about “huge, big numbers” to offer Foxconn to lure them to Wisconsin.

According to the WSJ article, Foxconn has explored several potential sites for a factory in southeastern and central Wisconsin, including in Dane County. Company officials have held a number of private meetings with politicians to negotiate options, but Fitzgerald said so far “all negotiations with the company are being conducted with the administration and have not significantly included legislators.” Governor Walker hosted Foxconn founder and chairman Terry Gou at his Maple Bluff mansion last week.

Oddly, recent local news stories about Wisconsin politicians’ proposed incentives to lure Foxconn here have not raised any questions about the company’s horrific environmental and worker safety record in China, where it has manufactured devices for Apple and other companies for years. A simple google search on the company quickly pulls up numerous articles about Foxconn factory explosions, worker accidents, deaths, and toxic environmental pollution.

In 2010, 18 Foxconn workers jumped to their deaths due to despair over working conditions in the factory. Here’s what happened after the Foxconn suicides. In 2011, an explosion killed three workers at a Foxconn plant.

Here’s a sampling of other articles about Foxconn’s appalling environmental and worker safety issues:

Workers Sickened by Apple Supplier in China

By the Numbers: Life and Death at Foxconn

In China, Human Costs are Built Into iPad

Apple’s Chinese Suppliers in Trouble For Environmental Pollution

China’s Apple Suppliers Face Toxic Heavy Metal Water Pollution Charges

Dying for an iPhone: the lives of Chinese workers

Some people will undoubtedly argue that Foxconn won’t get away with sickening its workers and spewing toxic pollution into waterways here in Wisconsin, as they do in China. These optimists should be reminded of Wisconsin DNR’s record of letting industrial polluters off the hook for significant regulatory violations (e.g., see here, here, and here). What will Walker’s industry-friendly DNR allow Foxconn to get away with in Wisconsin?

Politicians are excited by the promise of thousands of new jobs in the state, but hopefully everyone will not put their heads in the sand about Foxconn’s record. Before they welcome Foxconn here with huge incentives, legislators and citizens better wake up and start asking questions about the company’s worker safety and environmental record and how responsibly the company would operate here—and about how diligent Wisconsin’s DNR and state OSHA offices will be in enforcing our already inadequate worker safety and environmental regulations. Jobs that make workers sick (or kill them)—and pollute their air, drinking water, local waterways and fish—are not good jobs, even if Wisconsin politicians promote them as such.

Below, workers at a Foxconn factory in China.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Chief Environmental Justice Official at EPA Resigns

Chief Environmental Justice Official at EPA Resigns

Mustafa Ali, former head of EPA’s environmental justice program (photo from Wilson Center, Environmental Change and Security program/flickr)

By Phil McKenna, Inside Climate News

The head of the environmental justice program at the Environmental Protection Agency has stepped down, departing the government with a lengthy letter to Scott Pruitt, the EPA’s new administrator, urging him not to kill the agency’s programs.

Mustafa Ali, a senior adviser and assistant associate administrator at the agency, worked to alleviate the impact of air, water and industrial pollution on poverty-stricken towns and neighborhoods during nearly a quarter century with the EPA. He helped found the environmental justice office, then the environmental equity office, in 1992, during the presidency of President George H.W. Bush.

Ali leaves the EPA as Pruitt, who took office Feb. 17, prepares to implement deep cuts in the agency’s budget and staff. A Trump administration proposal would cut the EPA’s $8 billion budget by $2 billion and reduce its roster of 15,000 employees by 20 percent. An internal memo obtained by multiple news outlets on March 1 called for a complete dismantling of the office of environmental justice and elimination of a number of grant programs that address low-income and minority communities. A story in the Oregonian reported that funding for the office would decrease 78 percent, from $6.7 million to $1.5 million.

Read more here

 

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The Center for Health, Environment & Justice (CHEJ) funds Midwest Environmental Justice Organization project

The Center for Health, Environment & Justice (CHEJ) funds Midwest Environmental Justice Organization project

The Midwest Environmental Justice Organization (MEJO) has received a grant from the Center for Health, Environment & Justice, the grassroots organization founded in 1981 by Lois Gibbs after her historic and successful efforts to fight toxic pollution at Love Canal in Niagara Falls, New York.

“The Center for Health, Environment, and Justice is honored to be able to provide this grant to the Midwest Environment Justice Organization,” Gibbs said after the funding was awarded. “The program was very competitive, and their proposal reached the top because of the incredible work the group is doing. Grassroots groups across the country are underfunded given the level of impact they have on their communities and larger social change policies. CHEJ is privileged to be able to provide resources to all of these powerful groups, thanks to a small number of generous donors.”

MEJO works to educate community members about the effects of toxic pollution and to engage them in actions to stop it. “Unfortunately, even in a relatively privileged and progressive city such as Madison, many people from a variety of backgrounds are exposed to toxic pollution—and lower income people and minorities are more likely to be exposed than more privileged people,” MEJO President Maria Powell added.

“The CHEJ project,” Powell said, “will focus on outreach to people affected by industrial pollution to engage them in decisions on what to do about it—especially how to prevent toxic chemical exposures among the most vulnerable people. This is the core of environmental justice work.”

Since its founding in 2006, MEJO has worked to address environmental justice issues such as the race and class-based disparities in the consumption of contaminated fish, over-use of toxic pesticides on public land, and air and water pollution from urban brownfields and industries.

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Everyone deserves a safe & healthy home

Everyone deserves a safe & healthy home

Photo: The view from the site where the City of Madison has approved a low income housing development, with substantial city funding.

Click here for a brief taste of what people at this housing will see and hear from their apartments.

Waste trucks visit the Madison-Kipp Fair Oaks factory almost daily to suck up thousands of gallons of toxic wastes from aluminum melting and die casting processes and haul them away. Many of the same toxic chemicals, their combusted byproducts, metals and small particulates are emitted—unfiltered—from the factory stacks and open bay doors.

Would you want to see this out your living room window every day? To hear this noise every day? To smell and breathe the air emitted from these stacks, vents and trucks every day? Would you want your children to breathe this air?

We doubt that many Madison alders, public health officials, and other city decision makers could honestly answer YES to these questions. So why do they think it’s OK for low income and homeless Madisonians to live there?

The Madison Common Council has already approved $1.3 million in city funding for this housing project. On Tuesday, Feb. 28, alders will vote on whether to further support the project with $343,000 of Tax Incremental Financing (TIF) funds. See our comments–along with many Kipp neighborhood residents as co-signers–to the Madison Common Council here.

Please email Madison alders (allalders@cityofmadison.com) and Mayor Paul Soglin (PSoglin@cityofmadison.com) and ask them not to approve TIF funding for this project. Ask them where they live. Ask them to consider, honestly, if they would live in these apartments. As them to consider whether they assume different quality of life standards for less privileged people than for themselves.

Everyone deserves a safe and healthy home.

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No, chemical industry, you can’t have your cake and eat it too (Part 1)

No, chemical industry, you can’t have your cake and eat it too (Part 1)

Richard Denison, Ph.D., Environmental Defense Fund

There is an extreme anti-regulatory and anti-science bandwagon moving fast through Washington, and much of the chemical industry seems to have jumped right on board.  We’re also seeing growing signs of industry pushback against even modest early actions EPA is taking to implement the Lautenberg Act, which reformed the obsolete Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) and passed with strong bipartisan support only last June.

Read more here

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Send Your Valentines for Babies’ Hearts

Send Your Valentines for Babies’ Hearts

From Laura Olah, Citizens for Safe Water Around Badger.

EPA will be holding a public meeting on Feb. 14 (Valentine’s Day) to receive input on its efforts to establish the scope of risk evaluations for 10 toxic chemicals including the solvents TCE and PCE. This is a great opportunity to raise awareness about the risk of infant heart defects from prenatal exposure to these highly toxic compounds.

YOU can make a difference for babies’ hearts… send this Valentine to EPA!

You can make your own Valentine or print this one. Add your personal message and sign, including your mailing address!

MAIL your paper heart Valentine to:

EPA Office of Pollution Prevention & Toxics
c/o Citizens for Safe Water Around Badger
E12629 Weigands Bay South
Merrimac, WI 53561

 WOW!  We will make sure your Valentine is HAND DELIVERED at the Feb. 14 meeting in Washington DC!

In order for this campaign to be the most effective, we need LOTS OF HEARTS !!!

WANT TO HELP EVEN MORE?  Share this message with your friends and family and ask them to participate too!

FOR MORE INFORMATION:

Public meeting info including registration and deadlines: http://bit.ly/2jQwU7k

Health info from: https://www.atsdr.cdc.gov/sites/lejeune/tce_pce.html

Web address for Valentine to EPA:

http://cswab.org/safewater/wp-content/uploads/2017/01/Heart-Action-Alert-sheet-TCE-PCE.pdf

This Action Alert is also posted on our website at:

http://cswab.org/send-your-valentine-for-babies-hearts/

Laura Olah, Executive Director

Citizens for Safe Water Around Badger (CSWAB)

Coordinator, Cease Fire Campaign

E12629 Weigand’s Bay S, Merrimac, WI 53561

(608)643-3124

info@cswab.org

www.cswab.org

www.twitter.com/CSWAB

www.facebook.com/cswab.org

http://cswab.org/resources/cease-fire-campaign

http://www.facebook.com/ceasefirecampaign/

No effort, no matter how small is wasted when it is in the service of a clean and just world.

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What a Surprise!! More PCBs found in city-owned Kipp raingarden…

What a Surprise!! More PCBs found in city-owned Kipp raingarden…

Photo: Madison-Kipp raingarden in August 2014; behind it, Kipp was building a new curb and fence and paving parking lots, without the required approval and permits. MGE was digging around transformers, with dirt all over the parking lot, draining into the raingarden…

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Sadly, the long and convoluted saga of the Madison-Kipp raingarden–otherwise known as the Toxic Sludgegarden– is not yet over. See previous stories here and here and here.

This past summer, we asked city officials if they had tested for PCBs in the Kipp raingarden, which the company leases from the city. This testing was required by their city lease, signed in June 2015. Over a year later, in mid-October 2016 (in response to our repeated queries?) the city finally tested for PCBs in the raingarden. So the city lease was violated from June 2015 to June 2016, and city officials apparently didn’t mind. Would they have even tested if citizens didn’t ask about it?

On November 17, 2016 John Hausbeck from Public Health Madison Dane County (PHMDC) informed city and state officials that the October tests found 7 ppm (mg/kg) of PCBs in shallow soils about 18 inches from the stormwater pipe that drains into the raingarden from the Kipp site–see map and results. This level is nearly ten times above the allowed industrial “residual contaminant level” (RCL) that city and state officials agreed to use for this area (0.74 ppm)–and over 30 times the residential RCLs (0.22 ppm) that are more appropriate for this public area, which is zoned residential. The reasons government officials decided to use industrial standards for this area–and who actually made these decisions–are not clear (see below).[1]

Where did these PCBs come from since the last time the raingarden was tested—in May 2014? Perhaps this timeline and photos can provide some clues…

The city lease says that if contamination is found in the raingarden, “the Lessee” (which is Kipp) “shall also determine the source of the contamination…” Hausbeck speculated on the sources: “It is not clear where these PCBs have come from…All the samples were collected in the top one foot, so they should all represent clean topsoil.” He listed some possible sources. “They may have been carried by storm water into the rain garden from adjacent excavations, or come from contaminated sediment that entered the storm sewer pipe from breaks that were later fixed. Both of these potential sources were stopped last year and are no longer adding PCBs to the rain garden.” Was he referring to this pipe?

The “hotspot” found in October will be excavated at some point in the future, and further tests will be done. Will warning signs be placed along the bike path during excavations? Citizens asked that warning signs be placed along the path before and during past PCB excavations, so people could avoid the area if they wanted—and warn children not to play there—but the city refused, due to concerns about their legal liabilities. Neighbors posted their own signs, which were taken down the next day.

Why aren’t residential PCB standards being used? Did the DNR closure supercede the city lease? Who made these decisions?

Sadly, city and state officials have chosen not to err on the side of protecting the public in their decisions about what RCLs to use. Neighbors and other community members have argued repeatedly since the PCBs were discovered that the city should use the lower, more protective residential RCLs for the raingarden and the grassy area along the bike path, in line with DNR policy (again, see footnote 1). But apparently citizens’ input about how much toxic contamination should remain on public land does not matter to our government officials.

Oddly, in March 2015, Kipp and DNR agreed on residential standards for the area long the bike path, but something changed after that.[2] The DNR has leeway to ask for an even more stringent RCL for such areas—and some experts think that would be appropriate for this heavily-used public area next to a community center, a children’s splash pad, a compost area, and many homes (see footnotes).[3],[4]. The city, which owns the raingarden and bike path areas, also presumably has the authority to ask that a lower RCL be used.

In fact, Kipp’s final lease with the city says the following, on pg. 5:

“The City shall, in consultation with the Lessee, conduct periodic sampling of the Biobasin for new environmental contamination. If the annual environmental sampling indicates new PCB contamination to the Biobasin, the Lessee shall remediate the contamination according to local, State, and federal standards… New contamination shall be defined as shallow soil sample results above the DNR residential direct contact standard (RCL) for PCBs.”    

Confusing matters further, as far as the city-owned Kipp driveway area next to the PCB-contaminated ditch along the bike path, the lease requires cleanup to residential standards in the future; it says on pg. 2: “WHEREAS, the DNR, the City and the Lessee have agreed that the Parking Improvements shall serve as an environmental cap throughout the remainder of the Lease term, and any further renewals or extensions thereof, and that upon the expiration or termination of the Lease the Lessee shall remove the Parking Improvements, remediate the contaminated soil to the DNR approved, site-specific, nonindustrial (residential) direct contact standard, and restore the Leased Premises as hereinafter provided, unless otherwise agreed to by the City and DNR.”

So why is the city only requiring cleanup to industrial standards in the raingarden and along the grassy areas next to the bike path? Was the change to industrial standards “agreed to by the City and DNR” in the months between when the lease was signed and the DNR closure was approved? Did the DNR closure of the raingarden and bike path areas supercede the city lease?

Three months ago, we asked city officials to explain this, but have not received a response.

Why was closure granted without testing? Why isn’t stormwater from Kipp tested?

In June 2016, after Kipp asked for “closure” for the raingarden and bikepath areas, I asked DNR officials Linda Hanefeld and Mike Schmoller how they knew the raingarden wasn’t re-contaminated since May 2014. They didn’t respond. The DNR South Central Closure Committee, which Hanefeld and Schmoller are both on, approved closure for the area in July 2016.

This sad saga raises many questions about city and DNR decisionmaking and whose interests they serve. Wouldn’t it have been a better idea to test raingarden soils after all the excavations were done, before leasing the area to Kipp, and before approving closure? Doesn’t it seem like common sense—as citizens have asked repeatedly for years, to no avail—to periodically test the stormwater draining from Kipp into the raingarden to make sure this water is not re-contaminating the soils there? Apparently, according to the “common sense” of city and state regulators, NO.

Shouldn’t the citizens our city, county, and state government officials serve have some say in these decisions?

[1] DNR NR 720 says “Responsible parties shall classify the land use of a site or facility as industrial if all of the following criteria are met: 1. The site or facility is currently zoned for, or otherwise officially designated for, industrial use. 2. More stringent non−industrial residual contaminant levels for soil are not necessary to protect public health on or off the site or facility. Note: Situations where a non−industrial classification would apply include site or facilities which could otherwise be classified as industrial, but where proximity to non−industrial land use, such as residential housing located across the street, makes a non−industrial classification more appropriate.” (emphasis added)

[2] A memo from Kipp’s consultant Arcadis to Schmoller dated March 13, 2015 said that the grassy area on city property along the bike path would be considered residential– and residential RCLs would be used.

[3]November 2014 USEPA – DNR agreement on PCB cleanup,” says “EPA may require a cover or a cleanup to more stringent cleanup levels than are otherwise required based on the proximity to areas such as residential dwellings, hospitals, schools, nursing homes, playgrounds, etc.” and “depending on the form or isomer of PCB, the RCL for non-industrial sites without a cover can be as low as 0.0000341 mg/kg.” City and state agencies should be requiring PCB congener testing, but they refuse to do so.

 

 

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