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Madison-Kipp Corp.

Madison-Kipp Corp. is a century-old aluminum and zinc die cast factory located in the Atwood neighborhood of Madison, Wisc. The factory is adjacent to homes, a community center, food gardens and 200 feet from an elementary school. With abutting property lines, many houses are within 50 feet of the actual factory. Pollutants include PCBs, dioxins, PCE, TCE, vinyl chloride, heavy metals along with many greenhouse gases. Dr. Lorne G. Everett, an international hydrogeology expert who has investigated hundreds of contaminated sites worldwide, calls Kipp “one of the most contaminated sites that I’ve ever worked with.”

Madison polluter doesn’t like what he reads

Madison polluter doesn’t like what he reads

Graphic from the Nov 2, 2017  Isthmus weekly newspaper

The Wisconsin State Journal published an October 28, 2017 article, “Best estimate is plume from Madison-Kipp plant could reach drinking water in 5 years,” that earned a spirited response from Madison-Kipp Corp. CEO Tony Koblinski in his open letter to the newspaper.

“Why is there a seemingly renewed effort by you and the paper to cast Madison-Kipp as a public enemy…?” — Tony Koblinski, industrialist

“Journalism is printing what someone else does not want printed; everything else is public relations.” — George Orwell, visionary author

Here is MEJO’s response to Koblinski’s letter.

 

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EPA-funded report recommends pollutant testing for Madison community center

EPA-funded report recommends pollutant testing for Madison community center

Photo: View from inside the Goodman Center’s Ironworks Cafe, looking out to the Kipp factory loading docks.

A report from the Center for Public Environmental Oversight (CPEO), funded by EPA to provide technical assistance to communities on vapor intrusion, strongly recommends comprehensive vapor intrusion testing at the Goodman Community Center on Madison’s near east side, to rule out possible exposures to volatile organic chemicals (VOCs) among youth, pregnant women, seniors, and others who use the center.

In the report, CPEO Executive Director Lenny Siegel recommends that, given the known groundwater plume with high levels of VOCs—particularly tetrachloroethylene (PCE) and trichloroethylene  (TCE)—beneath the industrial area where the Center is located, comprehensive vapor intrusion testing should be conducted there. TCE exposures are of particular concern for pregnant women, because birth defects (fetal heart malformations) can occur when women are exposed to TCE for even brief periods of time (from 1 day to three weeks).

In a Wisconsin State Journal article by Steve Verburg about Siegel’s report, DNR spokesperson Jim Dick discounted concerns about the Goodman Center. He explained that “the DNR never required vapor testing in the Goodman center just north of Madison-Kipp because shallow ground water flows from the plant to the south-southwest.” Yet maps in Kipp’s March 2017 semi-annual report contradict DNR’s claim, clearly showing Kipp’s VOC plume originating on the northern part of the Kipp site and flowing north under the Goodman Center. [1],[2]

Since the consultant map in the report above (see pg. 121), oddly, only depicted PCE, not other VOCs in the Kipp plume, and doesn’t show where buildings sit over the plume, we enhanced the map, to depict building locations and levels of trichloroethylene (TCE) and vinyl chloride (VC) in wells (numbers are from the semi-annual report tables, see link above).

The map shows that the VOC plume under Goodman is shallow, countering DNR’s claim to the contrary. To understand the risk of vapor intrusion to the center, however, it is important to know the VOC levels at the water table, which is also very shallow there. The dotted lines depicted on the cross-section map linked to above indicate that actual VOC levels in shallow groundwater very near or under the center are unknown, because they have not tested there.  Monitoring Well 26, depicted on the map, is actually several hundred feet to the east of the center, and therefore VOC levels there are irrelevant to assessing vapor intrusion risks to the center. Yet DNR officials have used data from this well to assess vapor intrusion risks to the center–and now are no longer even assessing VOCs at that well (see below).

Goodman Center is housed in the old Kupfer Ironworks foundry, across a city bike path from Madison-Kipp Corp, which has operated in the Atwood neighborhood for 115 years. After VOCs were discovered in groundwater at Kupfer around 1986-87, and then under the factory site just to the west of Kipp (Brassworks) in 1993, extremely high levels of VOCs were discovered from 1994-1997 on the northern most tip of the Kipp factory, just across from the community center.

The northern part of the Kipp site has historically had alarmingly high levels of VOCs—including up to 6.4 million parts-per-billion PCE in soils off the northeast corner of the factory across from Goodman—and also very high levels in groundwater there. While limited soil remediation was done in a small part of this area in the 1990s, reducing soil VOC levels somewhat, significant soil and groundwater contamination remains there. A groundwater extraction well was installed on city property just south of the bike path sometime in the 1990s, but nobody at DNR or the city seems to know whether or not it ever extracted contaminated groundwater. Read more about this mysterious history here.

In dismissing vapor intrusion concerns at the community center, DNR’s Dick also explained that “ground water monitoring near the Goodman center hasn’t indicated a need for vapor testing in the community center. In fact, as some monitoring wells found less contamination in shallow ground water in recent years, the DNR has been requiring less testing for toxic vapors around the Madison-Kipp plant, and less ground water monitoring.”

This is a disingenuous statement. Again, there has in fact been no recent groundwater monitoring very near or under the center—though such monitoring is essential to assess the potential for vapor intrusion there.[3] Further, Mr. Dick’s statements about requiring less testing of vapors and groundwater are disturbing, not reassuring; they reflect the fact that DNR allowed Kipp to phase out the shallow groundwater and vapor testing most essential to understanding whether vapor intrusion could be occurring in the center and in nearby homes.

Now that, with DNR’s approval, Kipp has greatly reduced this important ongoing monitoring—and has eliminated monitoring at some shallow wells and vapor probes altogether—nobody will know whether vapor levels could be rising near the community center.

The Goodman Center also recently purchased the Brassworks factory to renovate as an addition for center activities. As the east-west cross-section map linked above shows, groundwater with significant VOC levels is also under this building. While three groundwater and three soil vapor samples were taken at this site, Siegel argues that this testing wasn’t enough to rule out vapor intrusion in the building. Both center locations should be comprehensively tested for vapor intrusion, he says.

“The city should step up to the plate and protect its citizens since the DNR is not doing so. The Goodman Center serves youth, adults and seniors, in buildings sitting over a huge VOC plume that originates at Madison-Kipp (and runs all the way to Milwaukee Street to the north and many hundreds of feet in all other directions). Their health may be impacted, as well as center employees’ health,” said Jim Powell, Midwest Environmental Justice Organization (MEJO) board member.

“Since the City of Madison owns the bike path between Goodman and Kipp, and also leases the land to Kipp for its Fair Oaks Avenue factory and the raingarden that receives the factory’s stormwater pollution, it should ask Goodman to conduct these tests. The City’s own properties may be negatively impacting people’s health.”

Siegel met with citizens dealing with vapor intrusion situations

 In June, Siegel also met with citizens from three Madison neighborhoods dealing with known or potential vapor intrusion problems, but just issued his USEPA-funded report this month. Prior to issuing his report, Siegel reviewed data related to these sites, provided to him by MEJO, which has gathered thousands of pages of documents on the sites from DNR and other agencies.

Several people who met with Mr. Siegel live near Madison-Kipp and have vapor mitigation systems on their homes intended to prevent VOC vapors from entering them. Madison-Kipp agreed to install these systems and maintain them for five years as part of a class action lawsuit settled in 2013.

Residents are concerned about whether these systems are effectively protecting them from vapor intrusion, and who will maintain the systems over the long term. They have good reason for concern. Mr. Siegel’s report highlights that appropriate testing to assure that these systems are sufficiently reducing chemical vapors into homes was not done after the home mitigation systems were installed. Also, there is no plan in place to maintain and monitor these systems after Kipp’s responsibility to maintain them ends in 2018.

“I would like to know that my system is working properly and toxic vapors are no longer seeping into my home,” said Sharon Helmus, who is 78 and lives just feet from Madison-Kipp’s aluminum melting stacks.  “Who will monitor my system after 2018? I certainly don’t know how to do it and can’t afford to pay someone else to do it.”

One person living next to Kipp who was part of the lawsuit has reported that her system has not been monitored at all by Kipp or anyone else since it was installed in 2012. This appears to violate the terms of the civil lawsuit settlement–but who is going to investigate? Neither the city, county or state will; and one of the lawsuit attorneys now works for industry and is under no obligations to his former clients.

Below, home of Sharon Helmus (on the right) just feet from the Kipp factory’s aluminum melting stacks

 

Siegel met with alders to discuss what the city could do

 MEJO’s Jim Powell agrees with recommendations in Siegel’s report. “The DNR, or state and local health departments, should ensure that post-mitigation testing is done to make sure the systems are working properly, and that there is a plan for maintenance of the systems over the long-term,” he said.

Siegel also met in June with some Madison alders to discuss ways that Mountain View, California, where he is vice mayor, addresses vapor intrusion, and steps Madison could take based on his community’s model, which is commended by EPA.

“The city should develop a method of reviewing potentially dangerous vapors from intruding into our buildings, along the lines of Mountain View’s. Vapor intrusion can expose us to long-term risks of chronic disease,” said Alder David Ahrens, who met with Siegel in June.

Alder Samba Baldeh added, “The City should map all VOC plumes in the city, especially on the eastside/Isthmus where contamination seems widespread, and develop strategies to address potential vapor intrusion problems comprehensively, including broad areas over plumes, not just one site at a time.”

Other possible aspects of broad city environmental policy could include requiring employers to notify building users that it is an environmental response site, where known contaminants are being mitigated and provide website references for more information.

“The city should develop an environmental policy to protect public health and the environment,” said Alder Rebecca Kemble. “At every decision-making level, alders and committee members should have as much information as possible in front of them, including all investigative reports about known and suspected contaminants on any given site in the city.”

“Unfortunately, at many sites, groundwater VOC testing done by consultants hired by property owners and/or developers is not comprehensive enough to adequately assess whether or not there could be a potential vapor intrusion problem in buildings constructed there, or existing buildings,” said Powell. “It is in the interests of the property owners and developers not to find a groundwater VOC problem and potential for vapor intrusion, since these are expensive problems to deal with.

“While the state DNR is responsible for enforcing federal and state environmental regulations, it is in many cases failing to do so,” said Powell. “The City of Madison also has authority to protect people’s health and the environment. The City owns a lot of land that is used for industry and is available for redevelopment. It can set high standards for environmental cleanup and public health protection on those sites. Additionally, through its authority as the stormwater management utility, it can monitor and regulate stormwater discharges of toxic chemicals into local waterways by industry and other polluters. Unfortunately, it rarely does so.”

Siegel feels that Madison could develop its own approach to reviewing and addressing vapor intrusion at sites in the city in order to protect its citizens in cases when the DNR is not doing so.

[1] Historically, investigative reports for Kipp have said that the shallow and intermediate groundwater under Kipp is going south, and the deeper groundwater is going north. However, DNR officials have stated that the shallow groundwater “sloshes around” in all directions at various times, depending on a number of factors including rainfall, lake levels, pumping of nearby Water Utility wells, and other factors.

[2] Also, if the shallow and intermediate groundwater is flowing south/southwest, why haven’t groundwater and vapors to the south of Kipp been tested? There are many homes and businesses to the south and southwest of the factory. In the 1990s, the DNR actually planned to install wells on properties to the south of Kipp, but they were never installed. MEJO’s repeated questions about this to DNR over the years have been ignored. Is DNR afraid of what they might find?

[3] As the CPEO report notes, in 2001 a few groundwater samples near the Goodman building found some VOCs, including 14 ppb PCE in a sample right next to where the Goodman’s Ironworks Café is now. The samples were likely fairly shallow, but reports did not clarify depths.

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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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What ever became of the DOJ lawsuit against Kipp?

What ever became of the DOJ lawsuit against Kipp?

In September 2012, the Wisconsin DOJ filed a lawsuit against Madison Kipp Corporation. It is still unresolved. Why? Because it was always intended as a tool to protect Kipp from having to pay the true costs of polluting the neighborhood—and people’s bodies—with toxic chemicals. Given this, why would Kipp want to resolve it?

Here’s an abridged timeline:

July 25, 2011: The “intent to sue” under the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) was filed by Chicago attorneys on behalf of seven Kipp neighbors, with 90 days to file the lawsuit. Kipp called each of these neighbors and tried to convene a meeting to convince them to drop the lawsuit, but failed to do so.

August, 2011: With the lawsuit going forward despite Kipp’s attempts to stop it, a different strategy was pursued—to attempt deflecting it by having the State of Wisconsin sue Kipp. A team including Kipp management and attorneys, DNR and DHS representatives started working on a document called the “Scope of Work” (SOW). According DNR’s Michael Schmoller (in September 2011), the DNR’s intent was to include the SOW in a consent order between DNR and Kipp and to complete it before the RCRA lawsuit was filed.[1]

October 13, 2011: After the State of Wisconsin tried to bring a suit against Kipp in federal court to render the citizens’ class action suit moot, a judge ruled that the state was not statutorily authorized to bring a suit in federal court. In Schmoller’s 2012 legal depositions (see here and here) it was revealed that Kipp officials had visited Governor Walker’s office and asked that the State of Wisconsin sue the company in federal court. After this attempt failed, the DOJ decided to file the lawsuit in state court.

October 15, 2011: Citizens asked for a public meeting, which was then rushed because Kipp’s attorney David Crass (Michael Best & Friedrich) demanded that government agencies hold the meeting before the 90 day intent to sue period ended. At the Oct. 15 meeting, DNR’s Air and Waste Program Manager Eileen Pierce announced to citizens that the state had referred the Kipp case to the Department of Justice that week.

Citizens suspected, correctly, that this was another attempt to deflect the RCRA lawsuit or to “cut a sweetheart deal” for Kipp. They were disingenuously promised input into the SOW mentioned at the meeting—but of course they were never allowed any real input because it was part of lawsuit negotiations.

October 20, 2011: Class action RCRA lawsuit was filed.

For the next several months, behind closed doors, the SOW team, with strong direction from Kipp’s attorney David Crass, negotiated what would and would not be done regarding vapor intrusion and soil/groundwater contamination caused by Kipp. DNR and Kipp’s attorneys discussed (apparently for the first time since 1994 when the VOCs were discovered at Kipp) how Kipp could satisfy regulations relevant to the situation (NR700).

March, 2012: PCBs were “discovered” at Kipp at levels so high that EPA involvement was required. But fortunately for Kipp, though DNR had to coordinate with EPA on the PCB situation, the State of Wisconsin is in the lead in addressing the situation, according to the DNR-EPA’s “One Cleanup Program Memorandum of Agreement” or MOA.

The nature and extent of the PCB cleanup were then incorporated into the SOW negotiations. As with VOCs, Kipp’s attorneys, DNR and DOJ began to negotiate how Kipp could fulfill PCB regulations they had violated for decades.

August-September, 2012: DOJ attorney Steve Tinker and David Crass together drafted the DOJ “stipulation and order.” One of the terms they came up with was “Compliance with the terms of this Stipulation and Order shall constitute full satisfaction and release of the defendant Madison-Kipp Corporation, including its officials and employees, from all civil and/or criminal liability for any and all Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR) violations that might arise from the facts alleged in the complaint.” The initial draft proposed a “total penalty inclusive of all forfeitures and surcharges of $500,000” that would be reduced to $200,000 “should Madison-Kipp fully comply with the various DNR approved plans, within the agreed upon time limits and pays the DNR its cost recovery.”

September 28, 2012: With the above stipulation agreed upon by Kipp and DOJ, the DOJ lawsuit against Kipp was filed.

July 15 2013: Class action RCRA lawsuit settlement was proposed.

October 28, 2013: RCRA lawsuit was settled; Kipp paid $7.2 million to neighbors.

DOJ lawsuit negotiations, including the SOW, continued behind closed doors, unbeknownst to the public.

August 27, 2014: Kipp met with EPA to discuss how they will clean up the high levels of PCBs in soils and groundwater under the factory.

August 3, 2016: EPA wrote to DNR and Kipp.“While EPA presumes the parties continue to negotiate in good faith in this matter, EPA suggests that the time has come for the parties to promptly finalize the proposed agreement that addresses the PCB contamination at the MKC site.”  Notably, someone from EPA Superfund program was copied on this letter.

August 12, 2016: Kipp’s attorney David Crass at Michael Best responded to EPA, admitting that “these settlement negotiations reach back some time” but “that is not to say that the matter has been dormant since the parties’ meeting in August 2014” and “MKC has accomplished much by way of further investigation and remediation at the site generally and specifically with respect to polychlorinated biphenyls.” He proposed to meet on in September after a Sept. 7 meeting scheduled for MKC and State representatives.

November-December 2016 (specific date unknown) Kipp/DNR/DOJ/EPA met. Meeting notes included part of settlement communication (dated September 29 2016) among Kipp, DNR, and DOJ. In this settlement excerpt, it says “PCBs have been present in the soils beneath the Madison Kipp facility for nearly 50 years” (it has likely been much longer than this) and “The State and Madison-Kipp are discussing an iterative process to monitor and, if necessary, remediate soil beneath the facility if it is confirmed that PCBs have dissolved into and impacted groundwater,” and described various options for dealing with this.

Also, it said, the “State of Wisconsin and Madison-Kipp” have discussed a “financial assurance mechanism” whereby Kipp assures the state it will establish a fund of $1.2 million to clean up PCBs. (This is not remotely enough to clean up the PCBs there—and is a drop in the bucket for Kipp).

October-December 2016: PCBs over the RCLs were found in the raingarden, which was already “closed” by DNR in July 2016.

February 14, 2017: Kipp’s consultants submitted a report asserting that “the detections of dissolved PCBs in three monitoring wells…beneath the MKC facility footprint are suspected to have been caused by the installation of the wells and not an indication of PCBs migrating in groundwater at the site.” Consultants argued that “Numerous references conclude that PCBs are not known to migrate readily to groundwater due to the tendency for PCBs to strongly adsorb to soil particles and to their low water solubility. PCBs do not migrate significantly to groundwater except under extreme conditions and, for the same reasons, they do not significantly migrate if in groundwater.” They cited three outdated government documents, none of which are scientific studies. They concluded that “The groundwater data collected to date at the MKC site, suggest that there is neither widespread, nor migrating PCB contamination in groundwater.”

(Shallow groundwater under the highly PCB contaminated ditch and raingarden has never been tested for PCBs despite citizens repeatedly asking that it be done, especially since the water table there is often just a few feet down.)

December 2016-March 2017: Further testing following up from the PCB findings in the raingarden found PCBs at levels up to 120 ppm in storm drains that travel under the factory and discharge at the raingarden and in city storm drains. A report summarizing the Oct 2016 through March 2017 results was shared with a small group of interested citizens.

April 13, 2017: Tony Koblinski told Steve Verburg at the Wisconsin State Journal that the PCBs found recently in the raingarden and drainage system “have set back efforts to resolve a state Department of Justice lawsuit that was filed in 2012,” but that he “expects soon to have a plan for cleaning the drainage system and the bike path area.” Koblinski says he had expected the lawsuit to be settled later last year, but the discovery of additional PCBs near the bike path and in the drain pipe have created delays.” Further, Koblinski said, “the company has complied with DNR instructions on soil cleanup since the mid-1990…”

Could the recent PCB findings actually help Kipp???

Kipp may very well have “complied with DNR instructions” since the 1990s, as Koblinski told the Wisconsin State Journal, but the DNR didn’t actually ask Kipp to follow relevant regulations on VOCs and PCBs until after the RCRA lawsuit was filed—and until after the SOW process/DOJ lawsuit negotiations allowed them to be off the hook for any regulatory violations. How fabulous for Kipp! And no worries about the recent findings of high levels of PCBs in the storm drainage system under Kipp—the company will be protected by the DOJ lawsuit, which will now drag on even longer. Also, as long as the lawsuit is still open, many records that would otherwise be public—about Kipp’s pollution and how it is being addressed—are not available to citizens because of “attorney-client privilege.”

While this lawsuit drags on and on, PCBs are repeatedly dug up next to a public bike path where people, including many children, walk and play every day.

Is our regulatory system working to protect public and environmental health? Clearly, NO. Is it protecting polluters? Clearly, YES.

[1] The SOW team included DNR staff (Schmoller, Hanefeld, Geisfeldt, Pierce), DHS (Nehls-Lowe, Jessica Maloney),  Kipp’s human resource manager (Mark Meunier) and two attorneys from Kipp’s law firm Michael Best and Friedrich (David Crass, Leah Ziemba).

 

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Kipp PCBs continue to pollute area along Isthmus bike path, even after multiple remediations

Kipp PCBs continue to pollute area along Isthmus bike path, even after multiple remediations
 madison.com

The company expects to find a solution soon, but critics say government regulators have failed to properly investigate the troubled industrial site. More…

(A diagram of PCB levels found along Kipp’s storm drainage pipe is below. See the full PCB report by Kipp’s consultants here.)

 

High PCB levels

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Kipp Raingarden Update, Part 1: MEJO tests show that city land next to Kipp raingarden still contaminated with PCBs

Kipp Raingarden Update, Part 1:  MEJO tests show that city land next to Kipp raingarden still contaminated with PCBs

Photo: Kids walk along bikepath next to Kipp raingarden in February 2017.

Sadly, the seemingly never-ending Kipp raingarden saga continues. (See the long history of the Kipp Raingarden PCB Saga here, here, and here...and more).

In February 2017, MEJO gathered shallow soil samples next to the city bike path adjacent to the Madison-Kipp raingarden and had them tested for PCBs.  One sample had total PCB levels twelve times higher than the residential direct contact “residual contaminant levels” (RCL) appropriate for this area. Another had levels about five times higher than the residential RCL.[1][2]

MEJO’s samples were from surface soils (top 1-2 inches) right next to the bike path, where people walk and jog, children play, parents push strollers, and pets frolic. City and state officials have told us repeatedly that nobody could be exposed to PCBs along the bike path because surface soils there were not likely to be contaminated.

Also, this city-owned area was deemed “closed” by DNR in July 2016 with the understanding that PCBs remaining there over the RCLs had been excavated—or capped with clean, PCB-free soils to prevent exposures to people walking or playing there.

However, the MEJO samples with PCB over the RCLs were from areas that were never actually tested for PCBs because Madison Gas & Electric would not allow excavations near their utility poles and underground lines. (See this map of what areas were excavated and what areas were not because they were MGE “utility buffers.”) One of the samples was from a grassy area upstream of the raingarden where stormwater flows into the raingarden every time it rains—likely re-contaminating the raingarden. Another sample was downstream of the raingarden. Neither area was ever excavated or capped.

In one area inches from the bike path that was “capped” in October 2015 with a thin layer of purportedly “clean” soils, to cover remaining areas with PCBs over the RCLs, we found PCB levels over half the residential RCL. There really shouldn’t be any PCBs above detection limits in this cap soil. The July 16, 2016 DNR letter to Mayor Soglin about the DNR’s approval of final closure for the area states “[t]he soil and asphalt caps over the contaminated soil serve as a barrier to prevent direct human contact with residual soil contamination that might otherwise pose a threat to human health. Based on the current use of the property, the barrier should function as intended unless disturbed.”

The soil cap has been repeatedly disturbed since it was placed there (see here and here).  The snow fence placed around the original cap came down almost immediately and was never put back up.[3] The city driveway and parking lot caps, over highly contaminated soils, have also been repeatedly disturbed. The DNR closure agreement includes maintenance requirements to prevent disturbances of caps meant to protect people from exposures—but apparently nobody is taking these requirements seriously, despite the area’s heavy public use and location next to a community center.

The bottom line? The public area along the bike path next to Kipp is still contaminated with PCBs over the levels city and state officials agreed could remain there without being capped. The capped area is not PCB-free, and is highly disturbed. Adults, children, and pets walk, jog and play all over these areas.

Why are PCBs on this highly used city land not being fully investigated or remediated? Who is responsible? It is not clear. But it is very clear that public health is not being protected.

Where did these PCBs come from? See Part 2, coming soon…

[1] “Residual contaminant levels” are the contaminant levels that can remain in place without capping according to DNR policy. Responsible government officials typically decide whether to use lower, more protective “residential” or higher, less protective “industrial” RCLs based on the zoning of the land and how the land is used. According to DNR guidance, heavily publicly used land such as this area, next to residences and a community center, should use residential RCLs. Both MEJO samples over the residential RCLs were also over the industrial RCLs.

The city’s lease to Kipp for the raingarden, signed in Jun 2015, says: “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. The Lessee shall also determine the source of the contamination and take action to ensure that further contamination does not occur. New contamination shall be defined as shallow soil sample results above the DNR residential direct contact standard (RCL) for PCBs.” (highlighting added).

However, the Kipp consultant report says industrial standards would be used for cleanup decisions. Whose decision was this? On what basis was it made?

[2] These levels are 108 to 265 times higher than the RCL for the “soil to groundwater pathway.” The highest level of PCBs found along the bike path to date (1020 ppm), is over 108,000 times the soil to groundwater RCL. Yet, groundwater under the raingarden and bike path area has never been tested for PCBs.

[3] Our ongoing emails to city and state officials since 2015 with photos of this disturbed area were apparently ignored.

 

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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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EPA proposes the first chemical ban in 27 years–TCE

EPA proposes the first chemical ban in 27 years–TCE

From Environmental Defense Fund, by Jennifer McPartland, Ph.D., a Senior Scientist with the Health Program.

Today, EPA issued a proposed rule to ban uses of trichloroethylene (TCE) as a spot cleaning agent in dry cleaning and as an aerosol spray degreaser in commercial and consumer settings. This marks the first time in 27 years EPA is proposing to restrict the use of a chemical and represents a significant milestone under the Lautenberg Act.

The proposed ban is long overdue for a chemical that is highly toxic and produced in very high volumes (255 million pounds annually). TCE is classified as a known human carcinogen by numerous authoritative bodies, including the National Toxicology Program (NTP), the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR), EPA’s Integrated Risk Information System (IRIS), and the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC). Many studies of TCE also reveal additional health impacts including but not limited to immune toxicity, developmental toxicity (e.g., fetal cardiac defects), and neurotoxicity (e.g., Parkinson’s disease).

Read the rest here.

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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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