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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.”

Oops!!! Maybe a Raingarden for Kipp’s Toxic Runoff Wasn’t a Good Idea After All?

Oops!!! Maybe a Raingarden for Kipp’s Toxic Runoff  Wasn’t a Good Idea After All?

 

 Children Creating Kipp Raingarden in 2006–Mucking Around in Kipp’s PCBs! Original Photo Caption from the 2006 Rock River Newsletter: Whitehorse Middle School science students seemed to enjoy rolling up their shirtsleeves and  pants legs to plant more than 2,000 of the 3,200 plants at the Friends of Starkweather Creek rain garden at Kipp and the bike path in Madison. A casualty of the muck: one pair of a student’s flip-flops and one of Susan Priebe’s pink “Crocs.” For photos and more information, see: http://www.rockrivercoalition.org/publications/newsletters/RRCfall2006c.pdf

 

In an October 9, 2013 letter, Wisconsin DNR and City of Madison asked Madison Kipp Corporation to remove contaminated soil from the raingarden built next to MKC on city property in 2006 by Whitehorse Middle School students and teachers (in the photo above) along with many other volunteers. Soil tests done by Kipp consultants in the raingarden in June 2012 showed polychlorinated biphenyl (PCB) levels above the residential and industrial “direct contact” residual contaminant levels (RCLs); in other words, direct physical contact with this soil should be avoided.[1]

We commend the DNR and City for finally asking Kipp to excavate this contaminated soil. But why did they wait over a year after Kipp consultants tested soils in the garden area share this data with the public and ask Kipp to excavate? Also, recently posted documents don’t tell the whole story. Kipp consultant documents posted by the DNR on Nov. 1 selectively highlight results from only one soil boring, not reporting results from borings just a few feet away showing much higher levels of PCBs, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), and volatile organic compounds (VOCs). For instance, one shallow boring on the edge of the raingarden, not reported in recent documents, had total detected PCB levels of 45 ppm— significantly higher than the residential RCL (.222 ppm) and the industrial RCL (.744 ppm). The levels reported from just one boring were much lower (.82 and 2.5 ppm), though still higher than the RCLs.

Documents also don’t mention that all soil tests in the raingarden area showed that tetrachloroethyene (PCE), trichloroethylene (TCE), 1, 1,-dichloroethene, carbon tetrachloride and vinyl chloride were much higher than the “soil to groundwater pathway” residual contaminant levels (also called RCLs). In other words, these chemicals in the soils pose risks to groundwater, which is very shallow in the raingarden area—only 10 or less feet below the surface. This is more than a little ironic, given that the purpose of the raingarden is to encourage contaminants to filter downward.[2]

Further, in all raingarden soil samples, arsenic levels were much higher than residential, industrial, and groundwater RCLs. Kipp consultant documents dismiss this, noting that “The presence of arsenic in the rain garden appears to represent naturally occurring background conditions.” Whether or not all of this arsenic is “naturally occurring,” arsenic is still very toxic to humans and in many places is becoming a significant problem in groundwater. Given this, why are these levels being dismissed? Why is there so much arsenic, natural or not (likely both) everywhere in surface soils? Metal smelting (which is what Kipp does) is known to produce arsenic, but that couldn’t possibly have added any arsenic to the soils next to the plant, right? Why isn’t anyone even asking this question?

Sadly, regardless of these findings, public health officials are dismissing or ignoring obvious human exposures to these soils in disingenuous (if not absurd) ways. When we raised questions about exposures to children who created this raingarden, in an October 2012 article, public health officials ridiculed us as “alarmist” and “wrong,” even though by that point raingarden soil tests (not shared publicly yet) had already verified that the area was quite contaminated. More recently, in a Nov. 5 Wisconsin State Journal article, John Hausbeck from the Madison Dane County Public Health Department assured us that “Those using the bike path generally would not be exposed to what’s going on in the ditch” (no duh! as if that is what people are concerned about…). But he said nothing at all about exposures to the children who created the raingarden—and people who have maintained the garden since 2006.

Were the children and adults working in close contact with this soil aware of the contamination, so they could take precautions (gloves, boots, etc) as any workers who will now excavate the soil are expected to?[3] Based on the photo above, no. Would parents of the children who helped create the garden let them work there had they known about the contamination? We doubt it.

This sad situation raises many questions about why city, county, and state government officials allowed this raingarden there in the first place—and why the neighborhood so enthusiastically supported it.[4]

The raingarden project was funded by a Dane County Water Quality Initiative Grant and coordinated by the Rock River Coalition, and was lauded by the neighborhood, government agencies, and Mayor Cieslewicz. Project partners included SASYNA, City of Madison, Madison Kipp Corporation, Madison Gas and Electric Co., AtwoodCommunity Center, Glass Nickel Pizza and Whitehorse Middle School. It was created explicitly to address runoff from MKC and to protect Starkweather Creek. According to the Rock River Newsletter (link above) about the project, Whitehorse students and volunteers “helped plant, apply weed barrier, and mulch. The rain garden will help capture stormwater runoff coming from the Kipp parking lot…and protect a fen-like area around Starkweather Creek (emphasis added).

We think raingardens are great, and we commend efforts to protect Starkweather Creek from further pollution. By 2006 the creek had already been polluted for over 100 years by Kipp, Rayovac (now gone), numerous other industries, the airport and widespread non-point urban runoff (in the 1990s, a huge quantity of PCB and metal-contaminated sediment was dredged from the creek). But was a raingarden the appropriate (or ethical) way to deal with highly contaminated runoff from Madison Kipp (or any heavy industry), given what was known at that point? By 2006, Kipp and DNR documents dating back to the 1990s showed that contaminated runoff from the most toxic hotspots at the Kipp factory went for decades into a drainage ditch that emptied into the rain garden area. Kipp officials, of course, also knew that they had used PCBs for decades on the parking lot next to the raingarden area—the same parking lot the raingarden was supposed to capture runoff from.[5]

Why would anyone think a raingarden is a good way to deal with toxic runoff from MKC? Even more troublingly, why would anyone think that having children build such a garden in that location is OK? At the least, why didn’t agencies involved have the soil tested before the raingarden was created?[6]

Unfortunately, this situation reflects the ongoing denial among government agency officials, including the ones responsible for protecting public health, that there could be any actual exposures to toxins among people around Kipp, and especially to the most vulnerable—children. While Kipp consultants continue to measure high levels of very toxic contaminants on and around the Kipp property, no matter what the results, officials deny that anyone is (or was ever) exposed, despite abundant and obvious evidence to the contrary. They marginalize and discount anyone who even raises questions about possible exposures as “alarmist.” Why?


[1] When the garden was built, 2-4 feet of soil were excavated and backfilled with “new” soil (consisting of sand, compost, and topsoil). It is highly likely that the original soil excavated was much more contaminated than the backfill, given that this area was the recipient of decades of toxic runoff from the Kipp property. However, the 2012 tests suggest that the fill may have been contaminated as well and/or that Kipp runoff since 2006 contaminated it (or both). Where did the original soil go? Where did the fill soil com from?

[2] Ironically, the consultant for the city (CGC, Inc.) that did the original analysis of this site concluded that “Based on the relatively thick layer of low permeability clay encountered in the borings, this site does not appear suitable to infiltrate significant quantities of rainwater.”

[3] Kipp’s consultant documents state that “If any soil is excavated below grade…personnel shall wear appropriate personal protective equipment to limit exposure to the contaminants…” (August 2013, ARCADIS Materials Handling Plan).

[4] MEJO leaders questioned garden proponents about the safety, efficacy, and ethics of this garden in 2005-6, but were ignored.

[5] The soil removed to create the raingarden was likely much more contaminated than the soil that replaced it. DNR claimed not to have known about the use of PCBs on the parking lot till 2012; this may be true, but they would have at least known about the possibility that PCBs were used on the parking lot had they read documents Kipp consultants submitted to them. Regardless, the agency certainly knew about all the other toxic contaminants found throughout the Kipp property and the drainage ditch that for decades emptied into the raingarden area. MKC’s enthusiastic support for the raingarden project raises even more troubling questions. Did MKC, perhaps, support the raingarden project in part because they wanted the soil there to be excavated to remove highly contaminated soil they knew would be there?

[6] The consultants who did the soil boring for this project (CGC, Inc., subcontracted to Kitson Environmental Services) noted that they had not screened for environmental contaminants because they had not been asked to by the City. Their disclaimer section read: “Unanticipated environmental problems have led to numerous project failures (emphasis in original). If you have not yet obtained your own geoenvironmental information, ask your geotechnical consultant for risk management guidance. Do not rely on an environmental report prepared for someone else.” But apparently the City never did any soil contaminant testing or asked for any advice on “risk management” from their consultant.

 

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Kipp Settles Lawsuit, Silences Neighbors with Money, and Denies Responsibility

Kipp Settles Lawsuit, Silences Neighbors with Money, and Denies Responsibility

 

The class action lawsuit against Madison-Kipp Corporation (MKC) was approved in U.S. District Court on Oct. 28 in a hearing that lasted a few minutes. The judge, lawyers, and two neighbors who represented the class said they were very pleased with the settlement, in which each class member will receive an average of $80,000. The judge, who said she received a letter from the DNR commending the settlement, asked no questions at all. The mood was pleasant and congratulatory. No doubt, champagne bottles were popped on all sides after this short hearing.

Should we all breathe easy now that the truth has been told and justice served? Far from it. In the settlement document, Kipp denies all lawsuit allegations—in other words, claims it didn’t cause the pollution or any related environmental or health problems. Ironically, Kipp also agrees to do what the DNR and EPA ask “to address environmental conditions at and migrating from the facility” (wait, didn’t Kipp deny causing the pollution?) but only “while fully and expressly reserving any and all rights to challenge, appeal, object to, or litigate any decision by WDNR or USEPA…”

In sum, Kipp denies causing pollution while admitting it, and agrees to do what DNR and EPA asks—well, unless they object to it. Apparently, our DNR thinks this dishonest doublespeak is A-OK.

Perhaps most troubling, the settlement money comes with a steep moral price for class lawsuit members who didn’t opt out:  silence about Kipp’s pollution, silence about what they believe, silence about the truth. It’s hush money. To get their money, class members had to agree that “they have not been diagnosed with, are not aware of, and do not have any symptoms that they suspect could be associated with any sickness, disease, or physical injury which may have been caused to them by the action or inaction” of Kipp. The settlement also includes a stipulation that class members “will not make any statements or representations relating to the claims and allegations asserted in the lawsuit, or direct any other Person to make any statements or representations relating to the claims and allegations asserted in the lawsuit, that disparage or otherwise impair the reputation, goodwill, or commercial interest of any other party hereto or their respective counsel.”

What wheeling, dealing, and political pressure went on behind the scenes among Kipp, DNR, and lawyers on both sides to come up with this duplicitous agreement? We’ll never know.

Do all the class members really not believe they have any health problems caused by Kipp’s pollution? Or not even suspect they have health problems that might be associated with it? Of course not. Several people in the class lawsuit have serious health problems, including cancer, that they believe are associated with Kipp’s pollution. Some suspect birth defects in the neighborhood over the years were connected to Kipp’s pollution. Others have mentioned neighbors who already died, they think, from Kipp’s pollution.

So why did they sign this agreement? Some don’t seem to understand what they agreed to. Regardless, they want this stressful Kipp fiasco to be over so they can move on with their lives. They all need the money. It’s very understandable. They certainly deserve money for their years of exposures to Kipp’s toxic pollution—though no amount of money can really compensate for this.

Remarkably, just one neighbor—one who needs the money just as much as others, if not more—had the courage and integrity to opt-out of the class lawsuit, foregoing the settlement money entirely, in order to continue speaking the truth about Kipp’s pollution and health problems without fear of retribution from Kipp. This person put truth and honesty before money.

Despite the lawsuit, Kipp’s huge plume of highly toxic contaminants continues to spread beneath the neighborhood towards the aquifer and the lakes. The factory’s air stacks continue to spew pollution into the neighborhood and beyond. All citizens will be paying for Kipp’s pollution indefinitely—with our dollars, our health, and the health of wildlife and the environment. Our children and grandchildren will be paying for it. We need as many courageous people as possible to continue speaking out publicly about this.

So, THANK YOU to the incredible, courageous person who opted out of the Kipp lawsuit!

 

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Kipp’s Contaminant Plume Under Goodman Center–Are Children Exposed? Nobody Knows…

Kipp’s Contaminant Plume Under Goodman Center–Are Children Exposed? Nobody Knows…

Documents from Madison Kipp’s consultants, released by the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR) June 21, 2013, show that Kipp’s plume of toxic volatile organic chemicals (VOCs) is beneath the Goodman Community Center, and PCBs were found at levels above the residual contaminant levels (RCL) in the shallow soils along between the bike path and Kipp’s northern property line—just feet away from where teens recently built raised-bed gardens next to the bike path on the Goodman property.

Sadly, these findings are no surprise. DNR and local and state public health agencies have known about VOC hotspots on the north side of Kipp, and the soil/groundwater contaminant plume, since the 1990s.  The plume under Goodman should have been fully mapped before the property was purchased for the center in 2005, but was not. The center building should have been tested for vapor intrusion before it opened in 2008—and if not then, in more recent years—but was not.  Levels of PCBs, PAHs metals, and other contaminants in soils on the Goodman property should have been tested before excavations and garden projects, but were not (violating DNR laws; see previous article).

Are children, teens, and elderly at the center breathing toxic VOCs? Are they working with PCB, PAH and/or heavy metal contaminated soils in raised-bed gardens? Nobody knows. Nobody has measured, and apparently nobody plans to. Why not? Because government agencies just know there’s no problem!

Last fall John Hausbeck, from Public Health Madison Dane County (PHMDC), assured Goodman Community Center Executive Director Becky Steinhoff that “health hazards related to PCE and PCBs…do not exist at Goodman.” He said MEJO statements raising concerns were “alarmist” and that “saying kids at Goodman Community Center are in danger is wrong.” This summer Mr. Hausbeck reaffirmed again, with no monitoring data to back up his statements, that children at Goodman are not exposed to Kipp contaminants.

In other words: if you don’t monitor toxins, health hazards do not exist! Our public health agency calls MEJO “alarmist” and “wrong” simply for raising questions. Indeed, we think anyone who cares about protecting children’s health should be alarmed by the proximity of Kipp’s contaminants to children at Goodman and lack of data on what they are exposed to. Yet the local public health department blithely dismisses the idea that there could be any exposures at all.

We do not think we are wrong for asking questions about children’s exposures to toxic contaminants. It’s our health department’s “no data, no problem” approach, in our opinion, that’s wrong.

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Neighbors Settle for $7.2 Million But Many Kipp Environmental Injustices Still Not Addressed

The immediate neighbors around the Madison-Kipp Corp. factory settled their two class action lawsuits on Monday, July 15. The immediate neighbors and their attorneys will receive a total of $7.2 million and there will be additional pollution remediation at those plaintiffs’ properties. The $4.6 million federal court settlement can be found here; the $2.6 million state court settlement will be posted later.

Meanwhile, Kipp continues to pollute; nothing about its operations has changed and existing PCE plumes and PCB problems continue to affect children of color and the elderly at the Goodman Community Center (a neighbor that did not join the class action lawsuit), as well as Lowell Elementary School,  adjacent businesses, a wide swath of the surrounding Atwood neighborhood, a water well and Lake Monona.

A partial list of ongoing concerns:

  • The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency continues to negotiate with Madison-Kipp about the EPA Notice of Violation issued last fall regarding serious air pollution violations involving chlorine, dioxin, and other hazardous air pollution emissions.
  • The PCB remediation around Kipp continues (will DNR ever test for dioxin, a contaminant found in PCBs)? Dioxins are among the most toxic chemicals ever studied
  • Preferential pathways for PCE contamination (utility corridors, sewers, storm drains) were never addressed at Kipp. So the full extent of shallow contamination offsite is unknown–which means the full extent of vapor intrusion in homes and businesses around Kipp is also unknown.
  • The extent of the PCE plume still isn’t fully defined; How deep is it? How far north does it go? How far south? Has it reached the lake?
  • Children at the Goodman Community Center are building raised-bed gardens about 50 feet from the most contaminated area at Kipp
  • High levels of contamination sit right under Goodman’s Ironworks Café. Nobody has assessed the depth of this contamination and whether it is causing vapor intrusion in the café. Why not?
  • The Wisconsin Department of Justice lawsuit regarding PCBs is still active
  • The Madison Water Utility is still unsure if it can use Well 8, down plume from Kipp’s PCE contamination and next to Lake Monona in Olbrich Park

To date, no public agencies nor elected officials have addressed–or even mentioned in reams of reports to date–pollution exposures to children at the Goodman Community Center and Lowell Elementary School. Are they completely unaware of what environmental justice means?

When will this change?

 

 

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Kipp’s PCE contamination under–and past–Lowell School?

Kipp’s PCE plume on its way to drinking water well and Lake Monona

At the May 28 Madison Water Utility Board meeting, staff reported the following (from the minutes):

Madison Kipp Corporation/UW #8 Sentinel Well:

“Groundwater at the Madison-Kipp Corporation (MKC) facility continues to be monitored for VOCs. A new monitoring well (MW-25) was recently installed at the intersection of Ludington Avenue and Center Avenue, approximately 600 feet northwest of Unit Well 8. Preliminary sampling indicates low levels (1.6 ug-3.3 ug/l) of tetrachloroethylene (PCE) exist at a depth of 100-130 feet below the surface here. It appears that the edge of the PCE plume has reached this location. Conformational sampling has been conducted at this location and the pending result will be used to verify the presence and concentration of this compound. The installation of the sentinel well, proposed to be installed adjacent to Elmside Circle Park, remains on hold.”

In other words, the Kipp contaminant plume is under [and past] Lowell School. The phrase “the edge of the PCE plume has reached this location” implies that PCE just got there, but it is very likely the plume reached past Lowell School years ago [hence various breakdown products of PCE present in Well 8, which is past the school in Olbrich Park at the shore of Lake Monona.

Kipp should also pay for additional monitoring wells to the south and in the direction of Olbrich Park to determine the extent of its PCE plume in that direction. Who knows how many other homes and businesses have PCE under them?

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Ignorance is Bliss (Series Supplement)

Remember the Kipp Dioxin Debacle?

Lo and Behold, Kipp Has Been Producing Dioxins All This Time! (shhhh…..)

Dioxin from Kipp’s Stacks? An “Urban Myth” of “Misinformed Activists”!

The issue of whether or not Kipp produced dioxins was a focal point of citizen activism around Kipp for years (see previous article). Throughout the 1990s, many citizens in the Kipp neighborhood1 asserted that dioxins were produced by the factory, but Kipp denied the possibility that the factory could produce them. In 2000, citizens formed a group called Clean Air Madison (CAM), which organized meetings, wrote letters and press releases, and held protests about Kipp’s air pollution.

Read: MEJO Ignorance is Bliss Special Supplement 1

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New Data Maps Show Widespread Kipp Pollution

New Maps Show Alarming & Widespread Groundwater Contamination Around Kipp

Using just-released data at the Madison-Kipp 101- year old industrial site and surrounding neighborhood, Dr. Lorne G. Everett has produced new maps that illustrate the probable range of Kipp’s groundwater pollution. The maps show much more widespread volatile organic compound (VOC) contamination than the DNR previously believed existed at the site. The VOCs found in the groundwater include PCE, TCE, cis-1,2,-DCE and vinyl chloride. The new data suggest groundwater pollution goes well beyond Kipp’s property into the surrounding Atwood neighborhood, as far as Circle Park and Wirth Court Park. This new data suggest that more remediation will be necessary in a far larger area.

Everett Kipp plume maps

Dr. Everett is a retired “scholar of great distinction” at University of California at Santa Barbara. He is an internationally recognized expert who has conducted extensive research on subsurface characterization and remediation. He is Chairman of the ASTM Task Committee on Groundwater and Vadose Zone Monitoring. [Everett Resume]

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“Shocking” Levels of Contaminants Found at Madison-Kipp in Recent Tests

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE—March 25, 2013

“Shocking” Levels of Contaminants Found at Madison-Kipp in Recent Tests

Recent tests at Madison-Kipp Corporation reveal “shocking” levels of PCEs in groundwater beneath the factory and offsite, according to Dr. Lorne G. Everett, an international hydrogeology expert and key witness in the RCRA civil lawsuit brought by neighbors against Kipp. Everett, who has worked with hundreds of contaminated sites worldwide, concluded that Madison-Kipp is “one of the most contaminated sites that I’ve ever worked with.”

In his deposition for the case, Dr. Everett also shared grave concerns about high levels of polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) recently found, stressing that PCBs pose the highest risk of all the compounds tested at Kipp to date. Soil samples just a few feet under Kipp, for instance, had PCB levels as high as 10,000 and 20,000 mg/kg—many thousands of times above U.S. EPA industrial direct contact levels. PCBs were also found at levels well above enforcement standards in some groundwater wells under the plant. “Madison-Kipp will have a deed restriction on their property forever…there is going to be a high source of a very toxic material at this facility forever,” Dr. Everett predicts, because PCBs are extremely difficult to remediate. (Everett Dep. 46)

Dr. Everett’s strong statements about the seriousness of Kipp’s pollution’s effects on Kipp workers and neighbors, as well as the surrounding community, follow from his December Kipp report—and parallel concerns raised by MEJO and Clean Air Madison (CAM) for many years.

Further, these shocking new findings, from monitoring wells tests by Kipp’s consultant ARCADIS, reiterate questions about the actions—or lack thereof—of the government agencies we rely on to protect public and environmental health. “Why did Madison, Dane County and Wisconsin government agencies not act on these serious contamination issues many years ago?” asks Dr. Maria Powell, MEJO President.  “Extremely high levels of chlorinated compounds, including PCE and its breakdown products TCE and vinyl chloride, have been documented in soils and groundwater under the Kipp site since 1994, yet agencies have only begun taking strong actions to monitor and remediate this pollution in the last year, after being prompted by the lawsuit.”

Also, Dr. Powell notes, “MEJO forced Kipp’s groundwater contamination issues into the public arena in early 2011 after they were kept quiet by Kipp and our government for over a decade.” Early that year, MEJO researchers obtained Kipp groundwater reports from the DNR, shared them with the neighborhood, and contacted media, elected officials, and government agencies. News stories in local papers and television stations followed.

Yet public agency officials repeatedly discounted most of MEJO’s questions about the extremely high levels of groundwater contaminants found under Kipp. In early February 2012, MEJO representatives met with city, county, and state agency officials to discuss our questions about the Kipp situation. “Among other things, we asked why a conceptual site model had never been developed for the Kipp site, and whether PCBs and dioxins (which are known to be emitted from Kipp’s stacks) had been tested in Kipp’s soils and groundwater.”

“Agency representatives didn’t feel that testing for these compounds was merited nor did they think it was possible for PCBs to get into groundwater,” Powell recalls. “They didn’t seem aware of the use of PCBs at Kipp, though it was documented in DNR files dating back to the 1980s.” Just a few weeks after this meeting, in March 2012, PCBs were found in soils at Kipp.   As recently as summer 2012, even the Madison Water Utility repeatedly discounted citizens’ concerns about Kipp contaminants getting into Well 8; in the summer of 2012, the utility decided to pump the well full-time because of the severe drought—despite calls from the SASY Neighborhood Association that it be turned off completely to prevent drawing in Kipp contaminants more quickly.

New data from wells off the Kipp property show that City of Madison Engineering maps of the contaminant plumes have greatly underestimated the depth and size of the plume. A new well on the north side of Goodman Community Center, for example, shows 3,600 ug/L of PCE, while the city engineering map predicted levels of 5 ug/L. Injection wells and other methods to control the plume, Dr. Everett says, will have to be done far to the north of Kipp, which will be “expensive and very controversial.” (Everett Dep. 55)

Notably, Dr. Everett also raised serious concerns about the people who have been perhaps most at risk for decades—Kipp workers. MEJO and other citizens have raised questions about the Kipp workers many times over the years, but have been assured by Kipp representatives that their workers are very healthy, though no legitimate exposure assessments or health studies have ever been done. To date, local and state government agencies have been largely silent on the risks to Kipp workers, who are not unionized. “Over a year ago when the Kipp contamination went public, I contacted the Wisconsin OSHA Consultation Program to see if they had assessed worker exposures,” said Dr. Powell. “I never received a response.”

Everett was scathing in his review of analyses done to date by ARCADIS, Kipp’s consultants, which largely downplay or discount risks to the people living right next to Kipp. “To conclude that there’s no risk to the immediate neighbors to this facility is unconscionable.”

Immediate neighbors of Madison-Kipp aren’t the only ones who will pay for Madison-Kipp’s pollution and government agencies’ inaction. “I think this groundwater resource is damaged for the foreseeable future,” says Dr. Everett. (Everett Dep. 57) “And who will pay for this? All Madison citizens,” notes Powell.

Dr. Lorne G. Everett Deposition: http://cleanairmadison.org/rcra/188%20-%20Deposition%20of%20Lorne%20Everett.22march13.pdf

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Ignorance is Bliss (Part 3 )

Toxic Contaminants at Madison-Kipp? Don’t Worry, There’s No Risk!

Overview: Toxic Contaminants From Above and Below

The U.S. EPA Notice of Violation that Madison-Kipp Corporation (Kipp) received in September 2012 raises many questions about the factory’s ongoing toxic air emissions and health effects among people living, playing, working, and going to school near Kipp—especially kids, elderly, ill, and other vulnerable people in the neighborhood. Lowell School, with an over 50% poverty rate, and Goodman Community Center, which serves many minority and low-income children, are right next to the factory. Knowing what’s really coming out of Kipp’s air stacks is more important than ever given what’s now known about the toxic brew of chemicals that has been spreading in soils and groundwater beneath the plant and seeping into neighborhood homes and buildings for decades. People in the Kipp neighborhood are exposed to numerous toxic chemicals from below and above—not just one chemical at a time. How is this affecting people’s health in the neighborhood? Nobody knows…

The recent EPA notice cited Kipp for inaccurate calculations and shoddy (or absent) record-keeping that could underestimate or hide emissions of hazardous air pollutants, especially chlorine, hydrogen chloride, and other highly toxic chlorinated compounds such as dioxin. EPA also cited Kipp for questionable practices inside the factory that could increase their emissions of toxic compounds. Yet this is nothing new. Kipp has shoddily reported, or failed to report, its toxic emissions for decades, making it next to impossible to assess what people in the neighborhood are exposed to day after day. Over the years, former Kipp workers and government employees have reported sloppy and unsafe practices inside the factory—including ongoing spills, broken and leaky storage containers, and the burning of dirty scrap in aluminum furnaces (a practice known to produce dioxin). The company has had numerous fires, accidents, and OSHA violations.

Meanwhile, for decades hundreds of citizens in the Kipp neighborhood have complained of toxic fumes and noise at Kipp, and raised questions about emissions of harmful chlorinated compounds such as dioxin. Countless health complaints and letters have been submitted to government agencies by citizens, including many asking for more thorough air monitoring and health studies. Hundreds of citizens have packed public meetings on Kipp.

Though a few government agency representatives have expressed some concern and taken some actions regarding Kipp’s pollution throughout all these years, for the most part public officials and agency representatives seem to be more interested in defending Kipp and assuring citizens that the factory poses low or no risks, even when abundant evidence exists to the contrary. Several health studies have been considered by public health agencies, but were dropped.

In 2013, decades after citizens first started raising questions about Kipp emissions—and in the midst of citizen lawsuits and EPA violations against the company—we still don’t really know how much dioxin and other hazardous pollutants are spewing out of the factory’s many stacks and pipes. Nobody knows exactly how deep and wide the plume of toxic contaminant the originated on the Kipp property decades ago is, even though that information is essential for assessing exposures and risks to people living around Kipp—and to the environment in Madison. Why not? And why do our government agencies seem more interested in serving and protecting Kipp, and other polluting industries, than in protecting the citizens they are paid to serve?

Parts 3 and 4 in this series focus on citizens’ struggles to address the factory’s pollution—and how Kipp and local and state government agencies have responded to citizens. Part 3 focuses on the period roughly between 1990 through the early 2000s, and Part 4, which will follow in coming weeks, will cover the early 2000s to the present.

Full article: MEJO Ignorance is Bliss Part 3

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Ignorance is Bliss (Part 2)

Forgot to follow Wisconsin pollution laws? No worries, DNR doesn’t mind

In a previous article (below and here), MEJO explored whether the Goodman Community Center, built on a contaminated former industrial site, followed DNR statutory requirements they agreed to follow when excavating on the site after remediation. The DNR confirmed in Januray 2013 that the Goodman Center did not follow relevant laws. Will the DNR cite them for ignoring these laws? No. Apparently, following DNR laws is optional.

To recap: According to an Oct. 24, 2008 letter from the DNR, when doing any excavation on contaminated areas that have been capped—which includes most of the site—Goodman Center owners are required by DNR statutes to:

Sample and analyze excavated material to determine if residual contamination remains (or assume that it is contaminated and manage it accordingly)

  • If sampling confirms that contamination is present the property owner, determine whether the material would be considered solid or hazardous waste
  • Assure the all current and future owners and occupants of the property are aware that excavation of contaminated soil may pose an inhalation or other direct contact hazard and take special precautions during excavation activities to prevent health threats to humans
  • Keep an up-to-date maintenance plan and inspection log on-site regarding the contamination cap and/or barrier and make it available to all interested parties
  • Worker (in hard hat, bending over) working below grade at Goodman Center (October 2012)

Under “Prohibited Activities,” the 2008 DNR letter states that the following activities require prior written approval from the DNR:

Removal of the existing barrier;

Replacement with another barrier;

Excavating or grading of the land surface;

Filling on capped or paved areas;

Plowing for agricultural cultivation; or

Construction or placement of a building or other structure.

In 2008, when the Goodman Center property purchase was finalized, Goodman leaders signed documents agreeing to follow these laws, intended to protect people at and near the center from exposures to contaminants. MEJO’s review of DNR files revealed no documentation that they have followed these requirements for any of the several projects done on the property since 2008, including some excavations in fall 2012. Did they sign these closure agreements just for show?

Dumpster full of soil excavated from the Goodman site. Where did it go? Was it contaminated? Should it go to an hazarsous landfill? We’ll never know. (October 2012)

After numerous inquiries from MEJO, the DNR site manager for the Goodman site finally confirmed this month that Goodman Center leaders did not notify him prior to the start of their September 2012 excavation projects (nor earlier excavation projects, presumably, since there were no documents for those either). The Goodman executive director talked to the DNR about the statutes they are required to follow—but not till two months after the projects were completed and MEJO asked several times to see the required documents (which neither Goodman nor the DNR were able to produce). By that point, the soil had been hauled away to landfills without required contaminant testing. Clearly the DNR did not review any soil testing results nor issue approval letters before these projects were initiated, as the law requires.

Will the Goodman Center be cited—or reprimanded in any way—for violating DNR laws it agreed to follow? No. The DNR site manager assured us that everything was fine because “Based on our discussion the work crews who did the excavation were familiar with the site conditions and knew of the contaminated soil and the restrictions associated with managing the soils.” Moreover, the site manager concluded, he does “not consider this a significant issue, particularly since the work || crew knew they could potentially encounter contaminated material and the site had a cap that needed to be restored.”[1]

Maybe these workers “knew of the contaminated soil and the restrictions associated with managing the soils.” Maybe not. We’ll never know. However, if they did know of these statutory restrictions, why didn’t they follow them? And, isn’t it Goodman Center’s responsibility—not the workers’ responsibility—to make sure relevant DNR laws for the site are followed?

Goodman Excavation3| | Workers excavating and sweeping up afterwards. Did they know they were digging up contaminated soil? We hope so…| |

Goodman Excavation4

We hope these workers did in fact know they might encounter contaminated material, especially since one of the areas excavated was where the highest levels of PCE were found on the site during pre-closure testing. Clouds of dust were visible as workers excavated and swept up the site. But without testing the soil first, as legally required, how could they know whether or not the soil they were digging and breathing was contaminated and at what levels?

Further, contaminated site requirements are about much more than protecting the workers excavating the soil for relatively brief periods of time. What about center employees, café customers and, most importantly, the children using the center—especially those children playing 50 feet or less away from the excavation?  Apparently, neither DNR nor the Goodman Center is concerned that there was no testing of the soil before excavation and disposal, and that no information was provided to employees, customers or users. The DNR does not mind that the Center did not take required precautions to prevent contaminant exposures to children and others. 1

It seems, sadly, that despite statutes intended to protect the environment and public health, in practice, responsible parties such as Goodman Center (and the large polluting industry next door, Madison-Kipp Corp.) can ignore these laws and DNR project managers have wide discretionary powers on whether or not to enforce violations.[2]

Some may argue that the infraction at Goodman Community Center, a relatively small contaminated site, is inconsequential. We strongly disagree. Wisconsin DNR laws for contaminated and remediated sites such as the Goodman Center are intended to prevent unintentional and potentially harmful exposures to toxins among people at and near these sites—especially the most vulnerable people. Preventing such exposures is especially important at Goodman Center, which serves many low income children, children of color, and the elderly, and is surrounded by schools, daycare providers, and a neighborhood with many children and seniors.

Goodman Garden and Chicken CoopBecause Goodman Center leaders did not follow laws they agreed to follow when they built the center, we do not know whether the soil excavated from the center’s property (which likely reflects levels of contamination in soil that is still there now) was contaminated, or to what degree.[3] We do not know if contaminated dust from the excavations settled on gardens and compost piles at the center. We do not know whether Goodman Center employees, people in the Ironworks Café, or children playing a few feet away inhaled contaminated dust as workers excavated soil—or what they will be exposed to over the longer-term as this dust is disturbed and re-circulated into air and onto surfaces.

Food pantry bread and produce out during adjacent excavation–free for the taking (October 2012)

Last but not least, this unfortunate situation poses broader questions. If Goodman Center andMadison-Kipp Corporation can blatantly ignore DNR laws and get away with it, how many other industries in Madison and throughout Wisconsin are allowed to as well? How many laws is Kraft Oscar Mayer ignoring? Madison Gas and Electric? When global corporations dig new mines in northern Wisconsin, will they violate or ignore DNR laws? If they do, can we really trust the Wisconsin DNR to do anything about it?

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[1] If this project was intended to “restore the cap,” this is the first we’ve been told that, even though we asked numerous questions related to this for months prior to this statement. If it true that this project was intended in part to restore the contaminant cap, this poses further questions. If the cap was broken–how long was it broken, and did damage to the cap increase potential exposures to children and others near that area? Why didn’t the DNR or Goodman Center provide copies of the Maintenance Plan they are required to keep on-site and up-to-date “in order to maintain the integrity of the paved surfaces, landscaped areas and/or the building?” (Contaminated Soil Cap Maintenance Plan, Goodman Community Center, October 2008).

[2] DNR officials were not able to point to any legal documents explicitly allowing the use of such discretion in this case—or any guidelines for discretion regarding excavation at remediated sites (e.g., amounts of soil excavated below which requirements do not need to be followed).

[3] Goodman’s closure documents state that some chlorinated contaminants (e.g., PCE) beneath the Goodman property are from Madison-Kipp Corp. Perhaps this is why the DNR does not measure soils and vapors at the center despite its close proximity to Kipp? Perhaps Madison-Kipp does not want anyone to open that can of worms?

MEJO Ignorance is Bliss Part 2

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