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Communities Press EPA to Regulate Vapor Intrusion

Communities Press EPA to Regulate Vapor Intrusion

MEJO joined dozens of organizations and activists including Erin Brokovich in co-signing a letter to EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt this week, urging him to allow rulemaking on vapor intrusion to move forward. Vapor intrusion is the migration of toxic vapors from the subsurface into the indoor air of overlying buildings.

“Subsurface intrusion is occurring at thousands of sites across the country. Hazardous volatile substances—substances known to cause cancer, birth defects, and other serious health problems—are migrating into our homes, workplaces, schools and daycare centers, recreational facilities, and places of worship,” the May 18 letter says.

Currently sites with a serious potential for vapor intrusion but no other completed pathways do not qualify for the federal “Superfund” National Priorities List (NPL). So over the past several years EPA developed, with public input, a rule that would modify the scoring system used to qualify sites for the NPL.

Implementation of the rule, promulgated in the latter days of the Obama Administration, has been deferred as part of the new administration’s anti-regulatory fervor.

 

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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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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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Scientists find PCBs 10,000 meters below the ocean’s surface

Scientists find PCBs 10,000 meters below the ocean’s surface

Much of our work in Madison, Wisconsin in recent years has focused on preventing toxic contaminants such as PCBs (polychlorinated biphenyls) from being released into the environment and entering waterways–and eventually ending up in fish people eat.

Government agencies have told us repeatedly when we’ve raised concerns about PCBs moving into waterways from industrial sources that they will not move because they are not very water soluble and tend to stick to soils. While it is true that PCBs aren’t highly water soluble, and tend to attach to soils and other organic matter–it is well known that soils and other materials with PCBs attached to them can and do move into waterways. Also, it is well-established by scientific studies that PCBs are semi-volatile and can travel through air for long distances.

Now, further refuting the argument that PCBs do not move, a Washington Post article by Chelsea Harvey reports that scientists in the UK have discovered PCBs and related compounds PBDEs (polybrominated diphenyl ethers)  “in some of the ocean’s deepest trenches, previously thought to be nearly untouched by human influence” at levels that rival some of the most polluted waterways on the planet.”

If PCBs do not move far from their source, as Madison’s government officials keep telling us, how did they get to this remote place? Clearly, PCBs can move.

Why does it matter? PCBs and PBDEs, according to the article, “may cause a variety of adverse health effects, including neurological, immune and reproductive issues and even cancer (in humans).” Further, both PCBs and and PBDEs “have the potential to remain intact for long periods of time” and tend to “bioaccumulate,” meaning they can build up in organisms over time. The article cited a study showing that certain organic pollutants, including PCBs and PBDEs “are widespread in fish throughout the world.”

Read the whole Washington Post article here

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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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EPA proposes ban on TCE in vapor degreasing

EPA proposes ban on TCE in vapor degreasing

From The National Law Review.

On January 11, 2017, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced it would be issuing a rule proposing to prohibit the manufacture (including import), processing, and distribution in commerce of trichloroethylene (TCE) for use in vapor degreasing.

Read more and link to the proposed rule here. Also, see the “Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families” statement on this development here.

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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…

**********

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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