City to Lease Rain Garden to Polluter

City to Lease Rain Garden to Polluter

(High resolution version of above graphic here)

SUMMARY: The City of Madison wishes to extend a lease with Madison-Kipp Corp. through 2023 that will allow Kipp to control the rain garden it has polluted, continue to use part of the north parking lot (which it has also contaminated), and will give full credit towards its lease costs for a wooden fence that allegedly blocks sound. Meanwhile, people who live next to Kipp say that noise from the factory has been louder than ever, and often is the worst in the middle of the night. [1]

Given Kipp’s long history of polluting Starkweather Creek and Lake Monona through its unmonitored discharges into the City storm water drains (including one in the rain garden, where most of Kipp’s contaminated stormwater discharges are released), it’s curious that the City would now like to give Kipp control over this land.

DETAILS: The City of Madison has a long relationship with Madison-Kipp Corp. The city owns the land under the Kipp Fair Oaks factory and under the north parking lot at the Kipp Waubesa factory. Now the City wants to lease its heavily-polluted rain garden to Kipp for free (zero rent because of the full credit for the “sound blocking” fence).

Runoff from nearly the entire Kipp Waubesa factory property has been going into a City stormwater drain for many decades (a century?). In 2006, the City built the ill-fated rain garden where this pipe discharges, despite existing documentation of extensive PCE contamination throughout the Kipp site. This area was already leased to Kipp, so the City amended its lease, took back the land and gave Kipp a $900 lease credit. From the 2009 amended lease:

During the time of the recent construction of the new Goodman Community Center at 149 Waubesa Street, the City of Madison constructed a storm water management surface water retention facility adjacent to the East Rail Corridor Bike Path. The facility was constructed in a portion of the leased premises that the City leased to the Madison-Kipp Corporation (MKC) beginning in 1998. In order to correct the situation, it is necessary to amend the lease to remove that portion of the leased premises that the City reoccupied. The portion contains approximately 2,100 square feet and its removal equates to a permanent reduction of the annual rent of $900.

In 2012 and 2013, several toxic contaminants, including PCE, PCBs, PAHs and metals were discovered in rain garden soils (see the main graphic above here).  Soil PCB levels in some spots were many order of magnitude above DNR standards for direct contact. Several rounds of excavation have been done there, but the big question still remains: where did all this pollution come from?

MEJO has learned of a never-before disclosed Kipp factory drainage system that goes under the factory and leads to the stormwater drain and ditch (leading to Starkweather Creek, which eventually drains into Lake Monona). Historically, PCBs, PCEs, PAHs, dioxins, metals, and other unknown (unmeasured) chemicals from Kipp processes have flowed into this drainage system.

The City does not know the full extent of this drainage system and has not investigated what chemicals are currently draining into it from Kipp’s air vents/stacks and ongoing remediation projects–or what might be entering it from under the Kipp factory.

It has finally been made public that Kipp had a secret trench in its factory that drained into the City stormwater drain. EPA is now working to get Kipp to remediate the unbelievably high levels of PCBs under the factory. FYI: EPA still hasn’t settled with Kipp over its air pollution permit notice of violation. Perhaps the City should investigate the toxins going into the rain garden before it hands it over to Kipp.

City "rain garden" between Kipp and Goodman

City “rain garden” between Kipp and Goodman

Kipp has polluted this City land for a century (along with Kipp’s City-owned parking lot).  Why should the City allow Kipp to have control of public land that it has treated so badly?  Is there any evidence that Kipp can be a “good steward”of public lands? Since this land is adjacent to the City bike path and a community center, the City might be wise to keep control of it rather than allow a lessee with such a bad track record control it. Instead, this public rain garden will now become Kipp’s private property.And people who live along Waubesa and Marquette Streets, as well as those families who use the Goodman Community Center, not to mention the parents of all the children who will use the new splash pad next year (right next to the rain garden!), should know about this and have a chance to tell District 6 Alder Marsha Rummel and the City if they agree with the wisdom of giving Kipp control of more public land. There should be a public neighborhood meeting at the Goodman Center before the Madison City Council allows Kipp to lease the rain garden.

Addendum: The “sound blocking” wooden fence was supposed to be on the north boundary too (along the bike path, between Kipp and the Goodman Community Center. This wasn’t built. Here is the proposed location per the 2009 amended lease.

[1] Kipp and government agencies attribute this increased noise to the testing and construction of the groundwater remediation system. However, many people living on Marquette Street have been experiencing increased noises from Kipp since before this construction started. Also, the noise often goes all night long and people say they cannot sleep. Why does Kipp need to do this noisy work all night long?

Digg thisShare on FacebookShare on Google+Email this to someonePrint this pageShare on RedditShare on TumblrTweet about this on TwitterPin on Pinterest

The Inheritance Myth: Time To Talk Frankly About Cancer

The Inheritance Myth: Time To Talk Frankly About Cancer

By Dr. Kristine Mattis, MEJO Board Member, Counterpunch, September 17, 2014.

In a September 2014 article in the Journal of the American Medical Association, Dr. Mary-Claire King – the woman who first discovered the so-called breast cancer gene BRCA1 – and her colleagues suggested that all women should undergo routine medical screening for this gene as well as BRCA2.  Of course, it seems reasonable that women should know if they carry these mutant allele forms of these genes, because the mutant genes confer a greater risk for breast cancer and ovarian cancer in women who have the mutants than in women who do not.

There has been some discussion about Dr. King’s proposal in newspapers and on the radio, but the dialogue inevitably has two tremendous pieces of the cancer puzzle missing: cause and prevention. In fact, too much cancer information tends to be myopic, neglecting to mention essential elements of the global portrait of cancer etiology. Conventional wisdom about cancer tends to end up promulgating misinformation and misinterpretations, not sound science. Dr. King’s piece, as well the highly publicized bi-annual Stand Up to Cancer celebrity charity telethon, which raises money for cancer treatment, have done nothing to provide more clear information to the public that could help avert this all-too-common but potentially highly preventable scourge that has caused suffering upon and taken the lives of so many of our friends and family.

First and foremost, it is important to emphasize that cancer is NOT heritable. Actor Piece Brosnan proclaimed on the aforementioned telethon that cancer was a “wretched inherited disease.” It certainly is wretched, but is not inherited nor is it really a single disease.

Most inherited diseases such as cystic fibrosis, Tay-Sachs, or Huntington’s disease are relatively rare, because on a population level, the processes of evolution and natural selection promote the disappearance of the genes that produce the disease, unless those genes also confer some benefit. Some inherited diseases are less rare because of their unique side-benefits. Sickle-cell anemia, for example, can confer a beneficial trait, because those who carry only one allele (one of the two in a gene pair that is inherited from mother and father) for sickle-cell do not have the harsh symptoms of the disease, but do instead have an increased resistance to malaria.

In contrast, the BRCA1 and BRCA2 mutant genes do not cause cancer; they merely make it more difficult for your cells to repair damage done to your DNA. When your cells are exposed to a cancer-causing agent (i.e., a carcinogen) such as ionizing radiation, certain natural and synthetic compounds, certain viruses, and some endocrine disrupting chemicals, to name a few, they have mechanisms to repair the damage that agent may cause to your DNA. But if the damage is too severe or widespread, or if the cell lacks that mechanism for repair, as in the case of those who have the “breast-cancer genes,” your risk of contracting cancer is increased.

It is basic scientific knowledge that cancer is not inheritable, but in light of the discovery of various genes that confer increased susceptibility to cancer, this fact is not always well understood by the population at large. Only 5-10% of people who contract any type of cancer have any sort of inherited genetic susceptibility. Therefore, the focus on inherited mutant alleles leaves out the majority 90-95% of people suffering from cancer. While it is true that the minority 5-10% who do have these mutant alleles have a much greater risk for disease than the rest of us, they do not have an inherent “predisposition” to cancer. Labeling these genes as “cancer genes” or even “genetic predispositions” is a terrible misnomer. These genes increase susceptibility to cancer when exposed to cancer causing agents.

In Dr. King’s article, she mentions that the risk of developing cancer when you have a genetic susceptibility is significantly higher for women born more recently than for women born long ago, and that this phenomenon has been confirmed in numerous studies. Indeed, women born today who have the BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene have two to three times as much risk for developing cancer as women of previous generations. This, again, should make it clear that these genes do not themselves cause cancer. But Dr. King explains this trend away by saying it is due to earlier ages of menarche and later ages of childbearing now. Once again, while these occurrences are correlated to increased risk for cancer, they are not in and of themselves causes of cancer. The cause related to early menarche and late childbearing probably is due to increased exposure to estrogens, which can indirectly influence a cascade of cancer-causing cellular events. More importantly, the reason for earlier and earlier ages of menarche is most likely to due our increased exposures to synthetic estrogens, not better nutrition, as Dr. King postulates. But passing off these two risk factors off as primary causes of the increase in breast cancers incidences is disingenuous.

More and more we are learning that many of the over 80,000 synthetic chemicals that humans have constructed over the course of the last century or so not only directly cause DNA mutations that lead to cancer, but mimic estrogen in our bodies, which indirectly lead to cancer. These chemicals are in food we eat, the air we breathe, the water we drink, and the endless industrial products we produce and consume. They are quite often the products and processes of industry, and are not essential to maintain a comfortable life on this planet. In addition, the radiation we receive from sources such as diagnostic exams via x-ray, CT scan, and other radiologic medical procedures are being shown to contribute to excess cancers. For example, the UK Committee on Medical Aspects of Radiation in the Environment recently stated that one out of 2000 people will contract cancer due to abdominal CT scans – otherwise known as an iatrogenic cancer. This may seem a fairly small risk, unless you are that one person who has had an unnecessary CT scan and then is diagnosed with a preventable cancer because of it. Furthermore, scientists are finding more and more evidence that non-ionizing radiation, such as the radiofrequency radiation transmitted by cell phones, cell phone towers, wireless internet, and wireless water and electrical metering devices, is also a possible carcinogen. (The World Health organization places it in the same carcinogen class as the human papillomavirus.) The ubiquity of carcinogens and the ubiquity of our exposure to them, synergistically and cumulatively, is far more likely to be the cause of our plague of cancer diagnoses; it is far more likely that because women are more exposed to these carcinogens than in previous generations, the risk for women who have the BRCA mutant alleles is greater than in previous generations of women. Moreover, the risk for women who do not carry the BRCA mutant alleles and who are better able to repair the DNA in their cells, while relatively lower, is also increasing in more recent generations.

But for some reason, this plain and simple fact that exposure to carcinogens can and does lead to cancer is always absent in the medical discussion of cancer. Part of the reason may be that medical practitioners are rarely, if ever, versed in environmental health, so they are not even educated about environmental toxicology and the myriad diseases caused by environmental exposures. But part of the reason is likely political and economic. Real biological causes of cancer seem to be verboten because scientists and scholars who speak these truths are condemned, defamed, and discredited by the powerful industrial public relations machine, which has multi-billions of dollars worth of revenue to protect, as it maintains the businesses and industries that introduce so many of the carcinogenic products in our world.

Another important clarification in discussing cancer is that diagnosis does not equal prevention. In an Orwellian twist of double-speak, health care professionals have delineated different forms of “prevention” and have decided that the diagnosis and screening for cancer is what they deem “secondary prevention.” In truth, diagnosis is not prevention at all and should not be termed as such. But diagnosis is obviously necessary in a country where cancer afflicts more than 30% of the population. A problem when you combine diagnostic techniques that are in and of themselves carcinogenic, with people who have genetic susceptibilities to cancer, is that through the use of radiological diagnostics, the medical profession is inadvertently increasing the susceptibility of the already susceptible population even more. Consequently, when doctors propose that women with the BRCA1 and  BRCA2 mutant alleles start mammograms sooner in life and have more mammograms than other women, they are thus exposing these women, whose cells do not have the right machinery to combat carcinogens, to even more carcinogens than the average person (since mammograms use radiation). Thus, if we are indeed to screen all women for the mutant BRCA alleles, we should at least be using ultrasound and MRI (which are harmless diagnostic procedures, as far a science currently understands) when vigilantly monitoring them for cancer, rather than increasing the carcinogen exposure in a population who are already inherently less able to deal with it.

What does all this mean for women who have the mutant alleles for breast and ovarian cancer susceptibility? Too often, the onus for protecting oneself from cancer is put on the victims of the disease. Doctors discussing the call for universal BRCA gene screening say that women can then know about their susceptibility and then embark on better diet and exercise regimens to help prevent the disease. Certainly, a good, clean, healthful diet of whole foods and a semi-rigorous and regular exercise routine are always to be applauded, but the idea that these lifestyle measures prevent cancer actually flies in the face of scientific evidence that is continually accumulating. The New York Times published an article in its April 21, 2014 edition entitled, “An Apple a Day, and Other Myths” in which they illuminated that the consensus among the tens of thousands of scientists who study cancer and diet is that “when it comes to cancer there was little evidence that fruits and vegetables are protective or that fatty foods are bad.”

When discussing cancer, the lack of conversation about our ubiquitous exposures to carcinogens is highly negligent. A few causes seem to be safe for conversation. We readily speak of the human papillomavirus (HPV) and the chemical benzopyrene, which is produced when food is burnt. Often, we do not even mention any sort of safe or acceptable levels of exposure to these organisms or chemicals; we assume that no level of exposure is necessary. But the tens of thousand of other chemicals, products, and pollutants that cause cancer, to which we are universally and often unnecessarily exposed, are rationalized as unproblematic at the levels with which we use them. Moreover, the acute scientific and medical focus on genetic susceptibilities in the minority of patients, instead of research into the etiology of cancer in the majority of patients, demonstrates that cause and prevention are not priorities. It also dooms us to failure in the fight against this disease. But that does not have to be. We can work to eliminate the underlying causes of cancer. Many of these processes and products are completely unnecessary in our lives and contribute to other global harms such as climate change. Until we can have a frank conversation about cancer that includes all of the primary elements contributing to the disease, additional screening for genetic susceptibility (for women who actually have access to health care – and many still do not) will be of little help and we will be even farther from combating this horrendous blight.

Kristine Mattis received her PhD from the Nelson Institute for Environmental Studies at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. As an interdisciplinary environmental scholar with a background in Biology and Earth System Science, her research focuses on environmental risk information.

Copyright 2014 Kristine Mattis.

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License

Digg thisShare on FacebookShare on Google+Email this to someonePrint this pageShare on RedditShare on TumblrTweet about this on TwitterPin on Pinterest

Assault on Batteries

Assault on Batteries

By Douglas J. Buege, The Cap Times, August 12, 2014.

When I was a kid, I had this cool robot that rolled around, flashed lights, and made weird sounds. It had a backpack that held two of those big AA batteries. I remember the last batteries — two Rayovacs that featured the cat jumping through the O — that corroded and destroyed the toy. What child would think that those little metal packages could pack such destruction?

Now, Rayovac’s drawing negative attention on a larger scale for being the one leading battery manufacturer of the Big Four to refuse to take back dead batteries. The Texas Campaign for the Environment has been dogging Spectrum Brands, Rayovac’s overseers, for refusing to take responsibility for their products. The Texans even shook up the recent Clean Lakes Festival in Madison with their theatrical protest.

Spectrum insists that used batteries belong in the landfill, even though Rayovac’s UK arm dispatched a press release calling for a take-back program to protect the environment.

There’s no doubt that batteries contain valuable materials that can be reclaimed. The common alkalines we use in smoke detectors and other devices contain steel as well as zinc and manganese compounds. Unfortunately, at current market prices, it costs more to extract these materials from batteries than to purchase new metals.

From Rayovac’s perspective, having to pay more to recycle batteries is negative, as it reduces their profits. But is their response — throwing the batteries away — a positive? Doing the right thing involves more than just avoiding negatives. Rayovac’s solution requires wasting resources, an obvious negative that they pass on to the rest of us. We should be able to find options that are basically good, positive choices. In the case of batteries, we can create a positive option that avoids waste while reclaiming all the components of batteries for future use.

Unfortunately, if Rayovac and other industry leaders agree to a battery take-back program, they will likely raise their prices. Then other companies will be able to sell batteries at lower prices, effectively punishing the leaders for doing the right thing.

Anyone seeking to force battery recycling can take at least two routes: harass the companies into doing the right thing or promote legislation that forces all companies to be responsible. The second approach creates a level playing field, requiring ALL battery producers and retailers to play by identical rules. Such policy would allow Rayovac to take back batteries with less financial risk.

Vermont’s legislature has already led the way in passing the nation’s first law requiring battery collection and recycling. Though the bill has several exemptions that will complicate efforts and will still allow some batteries into the landfill, the legislation may be just the first of many such efforts. Most battery manufacturers will develop the infrastructure for taking back their batteries. And, given their drive to earn money, they will find ways to profit as they meet new legal requirements. Batteries of the future will likely have much better designs allowing for recapture of their components.

Batteries are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to keeping useful materials out of our landfills. In Badgerland, we throw away an incredible amount of valuable goods because disposal proves cheaper than figuring out how to reclaim the materials. Viroquans don’t even recycle the glass bottles they collect in their recycling program because it’s too expensive to truck the glass to Minneapolis or Milwaukee.

Creative minds would find ways to recycle these goods. People seeking to keep Wisconsin clean and healthy for their grandkids would pressure producers to design products that are waste-free. Responsible citizens would demand recycling for all the recyclable materials we produce. Enterprising thinkers may find ways to profit from making use of materials slated for disposal.

Concerning batteries, it’s time to draft legislation like Vermont’s so that Wisconsinites can keep one valuable item out of our landfills. In the meantime, Carl Smith, CEO and president of Call2Recycle, a company that recycled 12 million pounds of batteries in 2013, recommends looking at their website — — to find out how businesses and organizations can mail in used batteries to be recycled free of charge.

Digg thisShare on FacebookShare on Google+Email this to someonePrint this pageShare on RedditShare on TumblrTweet about this on TwitterPin on Pinterest

MEJO supporting RayovACTION Road Trip for Battery Recycling

MEJO supporting RayovACTION Road Trip for Battery Recycling

The Midwest Environmental Justice Organization is collaborating with the Texas Campaign for the Environment (TCE) on it’s epic RayovACTION Road Trip to Madison on July 26. See more details here.

Middleton-based Rayovac (Spectrum) is the only major battery maker that does not publicly support household battery recycling, so TCE is coming to Madison to pressure the company to take responsibility for the products it creates.

Please support TCE in making this important road trip to convince Middleton- based Rayovac/Spectrum to do the right thing to reduce and prevent environmental pollution! See here for how you can support their road trip and actions.



Digg thisShare on FacebookShare on Google+Email this to someonePrint this pageShare on RedditShare on TumblrTweet about this on TwitterPin on Pinterest

A “Healthy and Safe Place” for “Good Clean Fun”?

A “Healthy and Safe Place” for “Good Clean Fun”?

Is this a safe place for children to frolic in a splash pad? Here are some of the toxic contaminants and safety risks not visible in the above photo…

A post in today’s Cap Times online raises important questions about whether the children’s splash pad planned at the Goodman Community Center will be a “healthy and safe place” for “good clean fun,” as the center’s Executive Director Becky Steinhoff assured us it will be in the May/June issue of the Eastside News.

Adding to questions raised in previous posts, there is a glaring omission in considerations about the safety of this location for a splash pad. Trucks carrying chlorine, toxic chemicals, and hazardous wastes to and from Kipp—and spewing hazardous diesel fumes—will rumble just feet past the children’s splash pad many times a day, every day.

Aluminum die casting is inherently toxic and dangerous, and Kipp has a lousy health and safety record. As we outlined in a previous post, between 1998 and Feb. 2014, the Madison Fire Department/EMS (emergency medical services) made 172 calls to Kipp for fires, explosions, accidents, and/or worker health problems and injuries.[1]

Kipp uses, stores, and transports chlorine, in addition to numerous other highly toxic chemicals. Chlorine is a highly toxic gas that can cause severe health problems (including death) to people exposed to high enough levels. Severe health effects from chlorine inhalation can occur within minutes—well before HazMat teams can get to the scene. The highest potential for such a release near Kipp is during the transport of chlorine; for details, see Kipp’s “Hazardous Materials Incident Initial Response Guidelines.” . With all the trucks going in and out of Kipp for well installation, remediation, etc., the chances of such an accident have likely increased in recent years.[2]

What will happen if there is a chlorine truck accident involving a chlorine release next to the splash pad while children are playing there? What plan does Goodman Community Center have in place for such an incident at its facility? Not long ago, community members asked Goodman Center staff this question and they had never heard of such a plan; they were clearly unprepared. How will the center staff handle such a chlorine or other toxic material accident next to a crowded splash pad? How will kids at an outdoor splash pad “shelter-in-place” if a chlorine spill happens 50 feet away?

[1] The actual number of fires, accidents and injuries is probably higher than this, since Kipp likely tries to avoid calling the Fire Department unless the accidents reach a certain severity level.

[2] Emergency Planning and Community-Right-To-Know (EPCRA)

MKC uses, stores, transports, and releases many highly hazardous chemicals, and is required to follow Emergency Planning and Community-Right-To-Know laws—see here for federal regulations and here for Dane County. Hazardous chemicals at Kipp include chlorine, propane, sodium hydroxide, nitrogen, fluorides, molten aluminum, fuel oils, lubricants and many more. The use, storage, and transport of chlorine are among the most potentially dangerous situations at and around Kipp. According to the “Hazardous Materials Incident Initial Response Guidelines” for Madison Kipp, “the worst-case scenario would involve chlorine being released directly to the outside of the facility during transport.”

Chlorine’s health effects: Permissible Exposure Level–1 ppm; detectable odor threshold–over 1 ppm; 3-5 ppm–slight irritation of the nose and upper respiratory tract; 5-8 ppm–irritation of the respiratory tract and eyes; 10 ppm– immediately dangerous to life and health; 15-20 ppm–immediate severe irritation of the respiratory tract, intense coughing and choking; 30 ppm–shortness of breath, chest pain, possibly nausea and vomiting; 40-60 ppm–development of chemical bronchitis and fluid in the lungs, chemical pneumonia. Prolonged exposure over 50 ppm will cause unconsciousness and death.

Two types of “vulnerability zones” for chlorine accidents at Kipp were modeled in Kipp’s Haz Mat Guideline document. One is the area in which chlorine levels could reach 1/10 of the IDLH (immediately dangerous to life and health)—or the level that “poses a threat of exposure to airborne contaminants when that exposure is likely to cause death or immediate or delayed permanent adverse health effects or prevent escape from such an environment.” The 1/10 factor is added to protect especially vulnerable people, such as those with respiratory disease or illness. The IDLH for chlorine is 10ppm so the 1/10 IDLH is 1ppm. An alternative vulnerability zone based on ERPG-2 (Emergency Response Planning Guidelines), or “the maximum airborne concentration below which it is believed that nearly all individuals could be exposed for up to one hour without experiencing or developing irreversible or other serious health effects or symptoms which could impair an individual’s ability to take protective action.” The ERPG-2 for chlorine is 3 ppm.

Vulnerability zones for chlorine releases are: 3.1 miles at 1 ppm (1/10 IDLH), 1.9 miles at 3 ppm (ERPG-2) “in the worst case scenario, dangerous or deadly levels of chlorine contamination may reach a distance of between .1 and .25 miles downwind of the source within a matter of minutes following the initial release.” Later, the document states that “The lead time for a HAZMAT incident could be from 15-40 minutes. As a result, this short time may not allow for a safe evacuation…An evacuation under these circumstances may expose the population to dangerous toxic chemicals and the decision may be made to shelter-in-place.” The document then lists 11 “shelter-in-place” recommended instructions.


Do you live in the Kipp Neighborhood? If there is a chlorine accident at Kipp or an accident involving a chlorine truck on a street in the neighborhood:

-How will you know? Is there any system in place to immediately notify you and others in the neighborhood?

-Do you/your family know what the “shelter-in-place” steps are? Do staff at Goodman Community Center/Lowell School?

-Is the community prepared? Are people near Kipp even aware that the potential exists for such an accident?

If you live in the Kipp neighborhood, contact your elected officials, public health agencies, Madison Fire Department and OSHA, with questions. Ask them to look into whether Kipp is following EPCRA laws. Ask them to initiate a public meeting to help prepare residents, schools, and community centers for a chlorine and/or other hazardous chemical accident at or around Kipp. Always include your street address when contacting your political representatives.

Madison Alder Marsha Rummel: 608-772-4555,

Senator Fred Risser: (608)266-1627,

Representative Chris Taylor: (608) 266-5342,

John Hausbeck (Epidemiologist, Madison Dane County Public Health): 608.243.0331,

Henry Nehls-Lowe (Epidemiologist, Department of Health Services): 608-266-3479,

Dave Bursack, Dane County Local Emergency Planning Committee: 608-266-9051,

Madison Fire Department: 608-266-4420,

Occupational Safety and Health Administration (Madison Office): (608) 441-5388


Digg thisShare on FacebookShare on Google+Email this to someonePrint this pageShare on RedditShare on TumblrTweet about this on TwitterPin on Pinterest

How Far North is the Kipp Plume? Kipp Doesn’t Want The Public to Know…

How Far North is the Kipp Plume? Kipp Doesn’t Want The Public to Know…

At a March 19, 2014 community presentation, Madison-Kipp Corporation’s CEO Tony Koblinski presented Kipp pollution maps and invited citizens to view them after his talk, noting that “when you get a chance to look at the data, you’ll be able to see all the values on each of those.” But when MEJO President began to photograph maps after the presentation, Mr. Koblinski rushed over to intervene, hurriedly turning them over to the white side. “These aren’t quite ready for prime time!” he said, obviously highly agitated. “They’ll be in the public record, in the Annual Report, in two or three weeks.”

It was very awkward behavior for a corporate CEO in a public venue—and especially ironic given he stated in the opening of his talk that Kipp wants to “reestablish Kipp’s reputation and standing” and “communicate openly with our neighbors” in an “honest and open dialogue.” (Mr. Koblinski’s presentation was likely written and carefully vetted by Kipp’s law firm, Michael Best & Friedrich.)

Why would Kipp present maps at a public meeting, invite people to view them, but not allow them to take photographs?

Before Mr. Koblinski turned the maps around, I had already snapped a photo of a north-south groundwater cross-section map dated October 2013, with the reluctant permission of the Arcadis consultants standing there. This map was also presented in Mr. Koblinski’s talk. Again, why was a map based on five-month old data not yet “ready for prime time”—and if it wasn’t ready, why was it presented at all? We don’t know, but have some speculations. Read on…

Respecting Mr. Koblinski’s request, I did not share the photos I took in March, but waited for the release of the Annual Report  by the DNR on April 8, 2014. The report includes no data and no maps, and is devoid of specific information other than a summary of Arcadis activities in 2013. Though a separate electronic report  released on April 8 includes groundwater data, none of the cross-section or other isoconcentration groundwater maps were posted on the DNR website.

I emailed DNR about the maps and was told that they were too big for Arcadis to send via email,[1] but hard copies of the maps were at Hawthorne library. DNR offered to ask Arcadis for a CD with the maps and make it available to me. I asked DNR to instead get the maps electronically from Arcadis and post them on the website so that any interested citizens can more easily access them.[2] DNR sent me a CD but has not posted the maps on their website for others to access (as of May 13).

In the meantime, I went to Hawthorne library and found the maps in bound reports.[3] The October north-south cross-section plume map there has the same title and date as the one I photographed at the March 19 meeting. Though all the numbers on the map are blurry and nearly impossible to make out, those listed for the northernmost well (Well 27 off Milwaukee Street) appear to be the same as on the map I photographed after the March public meeting: 1.6 ug/L and 11 ug/L.

A Tale of Two Maps

Strangely, however, the shapes of the plumes on the two maps are slightly different—especially towards Well 27. The map  presented at the March public meeting (in Part 2 of the presentation here) depicts the northern tip of the plume just barely reaching Well 27. The map  included in the Annual Report at Hawthorne (also shown with captions above) while having the same title and date, and showing the same numbers (blurrily), clearly shows that the plume goes much further than Well 27 (off the map to the north) and is more substantial vertically at that well.

So presumably, the map actually included in the Annual Report, with the more significant vertical plume depicted at Well 27, was the one Kipp felt was “ready for prime time” while the earlier one wasn’t. But in fact, both maps are misleading because neither includes the actual vertical profiling contaminant levels from Well 27 in November 2013—levels that were much higher than the numbers written on the maps. These tests found PCE levels of 40 and 25 ug/L, and TCE levels of 22 and 16 ug/L at 135-145 feet and 150-160 feet (respectively), as well as significant levels of the breakdown product cis-1,2, dichloroethylene (DCE). Arcadis also identified a significant fracture at 140 feet deep in November—which would be a key preferential pathway for the contaminants to travel underground to the north.

Data Not Shared with Public or City of Madison

We know that DNR and Kipp knew about this vertical profiling data in mid-December 2013. Apparently, neither shared this important information with the City of Madison, and Mr. Koblinski didn’t share it with the public at the March 2014 meeting. In fact, he presented groundwater maps that omitted this data and depicted a plume that pretty much tapered off before reaching Well 27 (with just the tip of the plume at that well). Other isoconcentration maps he presented, which he didn’t allow us to photograph, also made it appear as if no contamination over the enforcement standard of 5 ug/L had ever been found at Well 27. Further, he didn’t mention the underground fractures Arcadis had located. Research shows that such fractures can act as “contaminant superhighways,” through which contaminants can travel quickly—and far away—from contaminant sources.

Instead, Mr. Koblinski said “most of the contamination is under the building footprint,” referring to the Kipp building. He noted that the contamination doesn’t go deeper than 170 feet, which is incorrect (see Arcadis tables linked to above). He declared that the Kipp plume “tends to flatten out…it gets weaker and weaker, it’s diluted, it diffuses into the bedrock, and Mother Nature, though wounded, begins to take care of it. It biodegrades, and over time, it cleans up.”

Troublingly, to support these absurd and scientifically incorrect statements, Kipp’s CEO showed the public misleading maps that omitted critical data. Moreover, he didn’t show some important maps at all—such as the map showing how far the plume may have traveled to the east and west of Kipp. More discussion about this below…

Deep Contamination Going North, or South…or Whatever Direction Kipp Wants it To Go?

Mr. Koblinski stated in his talk that “movement of groundwater is generally downward and predominantly to the south”—which contradicts data and maps above showing significant levels of contaminants in deep groundwater 1400 feet north of Kipp (and beyond). Kipp consultant reports have stated since the 1990s that the deep groundwater is moving north. Was Mr. Koblinski purposely trying to mislead the public, or was that a misstatement? Consultant reports also say repeatedly that shallow and intermediate-level groundwater around Kipp is going south/southeast/southwest. Perhaps Mr. Koblinski was confusing deep and shallow groundwater? Either way, this begs the question we have asked again and again over the last few years: If the shallow and mid-level groundwater is going south, why hasn’t there been any groundwater testing directly to the south and southwest of Kipp, and only limited testing to the southeast (Well 25)?

DNR Doesn’t Want to Know How Much Further North the Plume Has Gone Either? What About East & West?

According to the Annual Report, Kipp doesn’t plan to install any more groundwater monitoring wells—not even to the north of Well 27 at Oak St/Milwaukee Street, where the contaminant levels are well above enforcement standards and the tip of the plume has clearly not been defined. DNR doesn’t plan to ask Kipp to install another monitoring well further north of Well 27.

The extent of the Kipp plume to the east and west of the plant, not discussed at all at the March 19 meeting, has also not been defined. Contaminant levels found in October 2013 at Monitoring Wells 14 and 16 (approximately 450 feet west and east of Kipp, respectively) are orders of magnitude above the enforcement standards (the depictions of the east-west extents of the plume in this map are Kipp consultants’ estimations—there is no actual monitoring data to back this up as far as we know). The extent of the plume to the west is of particular concern, since Well 14, to the west of Kipp, has levels of up to 970 ug/L PCE at 135-145 feet and 640 ug/L at 170-178 feet. Levels of TCE and DCE are also substantial at these depths.

So…how far does the plume go to the north? To the south, east, and west? If no more wells will be installed, we’ll never know how wide and deep the plume is—until contaminants show up in one or more of our drinking water wells. Perhaps they already have? As noted above, plumes can travel several miles from the source in preferential pathways such as underground fractures. Several Water Utility wells on north/east sides of Madison within five miles from Kipp (Well 11, Well 15, Well 8, Well 9) already have had some PCE, TCE, and/or DCE contamination for some time. Could any of this contamination have come from Kipp? It’s possible, given that the plume has been traveling deep underground through fractures and other pathways since the late 1940s, and several drinking water wells in a few mile radius around Kipp have been pulling the contaminant plume around in various directions–depending on which wells were used (or not), when, and how much they were pumping (see later story).

Some of our analysis is preliminary, since we don’t have access to all of the information. Regardless, one thing seems pretty clear based on our experiences and the information we have been able to piece together: Kipp doesn’t want people to know how far north the plume has reached, and at what levels.

Lacking maps, to help visualize how wide and deep the plume might be in groundwater under the neighborhood, we put together a very rough map based only on the most recent data from the furthest offsite wells (October 2013 for Wells 14, 15 16, 25, and November-December 2013 for Well 27), summarized below—so people could see the extent of the plume at this point.[4]


[1] Arcadis has provided countless maps and diagrams to DNR in electronic form in the past couple years to post online. Why are they unable to do so for these figures?

[2] Many people cannot go to Hawthorne Library and/or cannot afford to copy these maps.

[3] The maps cannot be easily photocopied (they are large and an awkward size in bound reports). Photographs I took are not clear because the maps are creased from folding.

[4] To keep it simple, data from all depths were combined for each contaminant.


Summary below of most recent data from:


FAR NORTH (Well 27, off Milwaukee St.)(November 2013 data is vertical profiling data)

11/24—135-145 feet: PCE 40ug/L, TCE 22ug/L, cis-1,2-DCE 13 ug/L

11/25—150-160 feet: PCE 25ug/L, TCE 16ug/L, cis-1,2-DCE8 ug/L

11/25—160-170 feet: PCE 3 ug/L, TCE 1 ug/L, cis-1,2-DCE .47 ug/L

12/26—130-140 feet: PCE 1.8ug/L, TCE 1.3ug/L, cis-1,2-DCE .85 ug/L

12/26—170-180 feet: PCE 11ug/L, TCE 7.2ug/L, cis-1,2-DCE4 ug/L


NORTH (Wells 9/15 Wirth Park)***

10/4/13–64-69 feet: 34 ug/L, TCE 7.4, cis-1,2 DCE 18 (Well 9, all the rest from Well 15)

10/8/13—PCE, 88-92 feet: 220 ug/L, TCE, 19 ug/L, cis-1, 3 DCE 20 ug/L

10/8/13—PCE, 100-105 feet: PCE 690ug/L, TCE 72ug/L, cis-1, 2 DCE 76 ug/L

10/8/13—PCE, 120-125 feet: PCE 1800ug/L, TCE 190ug/L, cis-1, 2 DCE 220 ug/L

10/8/13—PCE, 142-146 feet: PCE 840ug/L, TCE 130ug/L, cis-1, 2 DCE 140 ug/L, vinyl chloride .76 ug/L

10/8/13—PCE, 177-187 feet: PCE 100ug/L, TCE 12ug/L, cis-1, 2 DCE 16ug/L, vinyl chloride .34 ug/L

***Well 9 was the original, shallower well. Well 15 was installed later, and is a deeper well. They are right next to each other at the same location.


EAST (Well 16, corner of Dixon and Fairview)

10/9/13—PCE, 80-84 feet—.76ug/L, rest below detection limits

10/9/13—PCE, 106-116 feet—94ug/L, TCE 13ug/L, cis-1, 2 DCE 10 ug/L

10/9/13—PCE, 140-144 feet—37ug/L, TCE 6.1ug/L

10/9/13—PCE, 175-179 feet—3.7ug/L, TCE .98ug/L


WEST (Well 14, just off Corry St.)

10/8/13—70-75 feet, all below detection limits

10/8/14—100-105 feet, 1.7 ug/L PCE

10/8/13—PCE, 135-145 feet—970ug/L, TCE 53ug/L, cis-1, 2 DCE 27 ug/L, vinyl chloride, .53 ug/L

10/8/13—PCE, 170-178 feet—640ug/L, TCE 37ug/L, cis-1, 2 DCE 22 ug/L


SOUTHEAST (Well 25, southeast of Lowell School, sentinel well for Well 8)***

10/9/13—PCE, 120-130 feet—3.1ug/L, MC 5.3ug/L

10/4/13– PCE, 160-170 feet—all under detection limits

***This data is also too limited in time and depths to say yet what is happening at this well. There have only been three sets of tests at two depths on this well. The last set of tests, in October 2013 (shown above) showed the highest levels of PCE and methylene chloride of the three tests. Methylene chloride levels were well over the Preventive Action Limit and slightly over the Enforcement Standard. PCE was not far under the Enforcement Standard. Far more tests at different depths need to be done on this well before drawing conclusion about how far and deep the plume is at the sentinel well.


Well 26S, (Goodman Parking Lot)***

8/23/13—PCE, 6.8-16.8 feet: PCE 1.4 ug/L, rest below detection limits

10/9/13—all below detection limits

***These results (from only two dates at only one narrow range of depths) aren’t remotely adequate to assess what is beneath the Goodman property in groundwater, nor does it tell us anything about potential vapor intrusion problems inside the Goodman Center, which is the most important issue to assess as far as risks to people there. To assess risks to people there, vapor tests need to be done in the subslab of the center and in indoor air. Yet Mr Koblinski said during his March 19 2013 presentation that Well 26S results confirm that there are no vapor problems on the Goodman property. To draw this conclusion from this limited data is scientifically inadequate and, moreover, highly unethical from a public health standpoint given that many at-risk children and elderly spend a lot of time at this center.


Preventive Action Limit (PAL):

Tetrachloroethylene (PCE)–.5 ug/L

Trichloroethylene (TCE)–.5 ug/L

Cis- 1, 2-dichloroethylene (DCE)—7ug/L

Vinyl chloride (VC)–.02 ug/L

Methylene chloride (MC)–.5 ug/L


Enforcement Standard (ES):

Tetrachloroethylene (PCE)–5 ug/L

Trichloroethylene (TCE)–5 ug/L

Cis- 1, 2-dichloroethylene (DCE)—70 ug/L

Vinyl chloride (VC)–.2 ug/L

Methylene chloride (MC)—5 ug/L



Digg thisShare on FacebookShare on Google+Email this to someonePrint this pageShare on RedditShare on TumblrTweet about this on TwitterPin on Pinterest

Kipp’s Former Raingarden–Now SludgeGarden–Even More Toxic Than We Knew…

Kipp’s Former Raingarden–Now SludgeGarden–Even More Toxic Than We Knew…

Yesterday we obtained a Figure from the City of Madison with more PCB data from soils excavated from the Kipp raingarden, on City of Madison property just north of Kipp, next to the public bike path and across from the Goodman Community Center. The PCB levels found around the edges of the former garden, now a toxic pit , are even higher than those reported in our previous post.

We don’t know exactly when these soils were excavated and tested, but the figure we have was dated April 22, 2014, Earth Day. The highest level— 85 ppm PCBs, orders of magnitude above both the residential direct contact RCL of .22 ppm and the industrial RCL of .74 ppm—were found on the north side of the raingarden, near the bike path, next to the raingarden sign.

These highly PCB contaminated soils are still there; in fact, we didn’t know it, but we were standing pretty much on the 85 ppm PCBs when we took many of our photos. The areas with the highest levels will be excavated, but MGE requires a 10-foot buffer for excavation around telephone poles, and other underground utilities also have to be avoided.

All around this excavation pit, children are playing and people are walking/biking. Goodman teen workers are putting food scraps in the compost piles just feet away. Though there is a flimsy short plastic fence around the garden, there are no signs anywhere to let people know that the area is a toxic soil excavation, with high levels of PCBs still remaining.

Questions this raises:

Why are there no signs anywhere around the excavation pit/pond to let people know what is being done and to alert them to the high PCB levels there?

How deep were these PCBs found? Why weren’t other contaminants besides PCBs (PCE, TCE, vinyl chloride, metals, dioxins) also tested in the 2nd round?

How long have the City, Public Health Madison Dane County, the Department of Health Services, the Department of Natural Resources (DNR), Kipp, and other government officials had this excavation PCB data? Did they plan to share it with the public? Why hadn’t they as of May 2 2014? Would anyone even know about the PCB contamination that remains there if we didn’t happen to ride our bikes past the excavation and if we hadn’t started asking questions?

Did the government entities listed above share this data and other details about the excavation with people in the nearby neighborhood, neighborhood association (SASYNA), Goodman Community Center, daycares, etc? Did they engage people in the neighborhood in discussions about how/when the excavation would occur, keep them apprised of the test results, and talk to them about the best ways to communicate with nearby residents and assure that children and pets do not play in and around the excavation area?

If the areas around the telephone poles and other utilities will not be excavated, will the PCBs in those soils remain in place indefinitely? These PCB hotspots are in highly-used public areas. Will there be signs alerting people about the PCB contamination there?

What is the long-term plan for this area? If the raingarden is rebuilt (as is planned, after more excavation) and continues to gather and concentrate PCBs and other contaminants—will the raingarden have to be excavated every few years to remove the high levels of contaminants? Is this really the best plan? What does the neighborhood want?

Is it really a good idea for Goodman to build a children’s SPLASH PAD just across the bikepath from this garden, very near where Kipp stored barrels of waste in the past on what is now Goodman property?  

Digg thisShare on FacebookShare on Google+Email this to someonePrint this pageShare on RedditShare on TumblrTweet about this on TwitterPin on Pinterest

World’s Workers Rise Up in Celebration and Protest on May Day–from Common

World’s Workers Rise Up in Celebration and Protest on May Day–from Common

(May Day Rally in Bangladesh. AP Photo. A.M. Ahad)

Demanding dignity and end of economic status quo that undermines labor rights and fair treatment, world’s labor force celebrates and activates. Read the full Common Dreams article here.

Meanwhile, who is standing up for the health, safety, and dignity of Madison Kipp non-unionized workers?

Workers at Madison-Kipp Corporation

(Kipp workers, photo from

In previous posts (see here and here) we posed many questions about what is being done to protect these workers from toxic exposures. These non-unionized workers are, understandably, not likely to “rise up” without union protection to demand a safer workplace, for fear of being fired–as happened to other workers who asked questions about risks in the factory. To date, we have received no answers to our questions from Madison Kipp or any of the government agencies responsible for protecting workers and public health.

Kipp’s HR manager and CEO said independent industrial hygienists hired by their insurance companies have monitored inside the factory and everything is A-OK. If that’s the case, why won’t they share the monitoring data? We’re still waiting….


Digg thisShare on FacebookShare on Google+Email this to someonePrint this pageShare on RedditShare on TumblrTweet about this on TwitterPin on Pinterest

Madison Kipp: Making a Beautiful Difference?

Madison Kipp: Making a Beautiful Difference?

See the beautiful difference: Kipp Raingarden to Kipp Sludgegarden.

Previous story about the Kipp raingarden here. A raingarden was built by middle school children in 2006 next to Madison-Kipp Corporation. High levels of PCBs, PCE and other contaminants were found there in August 2012, AFTER it was excavated the first time to create the garden! Another excavation occurred in early 2014 to remove the PCBs found in the first excavation.

These pictures were taken on Earth Day 2014 after the 2nd excavation. NOTE: The open pit–full of toxins–is right next to the Goodman Community Center, directly across from the compost pile area.

Kipp raingarden photo gallery is here.

Digg thisShare on FacebookShare on Google+Email this to someonePrint this pageShare on RedditShare on TumblrTweet about this on TwitterPin on Pinterest

Dane County Parks Celebrates Earth Week by Cutting Down Many Large Trees

Dane County Parks Celebrates Earth Week by Cutting Down Many Large Trees

(Cut tree stumps treated with pesticides, Lake View Hill Park, April 23rd)

On Earth Day and the day after, April 22rd and April 23th 2014, contractors hired by Dane County Parks cut down several large, healthy trees near the top of Lake View Hill Park, a county “conservancy” on Madison’s north side, near Warner Park. Some of the trees, just south of the old nurse’s dorm, were mature and productive mulberries that neighborhood children have harvested delicious berries from for years. They were also habitat and favorite food sources for deer, birds, and other wildlife. Sadly, this summer animals and kids who go there for berries will find their beloved trees gone—replaced by pesticide-sprayed stumps. Happy Earth Day from Dane County Parks!

Why? When asked what the rationale was for cutting down all these large trees, Nelson Eisman, Dane County Parks staff who directed the contractors to cut the trees, said that the roots were damaging the old stone wall of the nurse’s dorm, which will be demolished soon. Further, he said, “they’re mulberries”[1] and were “obstructing the view” from the top of the hill.

Yes, you read that correctly. Large trees are being cut down by Dane County Parks, in part, to improve the view for people. In fact, in the last several years, the county has spent many thousands of public dollars [2] slowly clear-cutting the hill for the sake of “the viewshed.” Not long ago, several huge, thriving trees, including some beautiful pines on the hill that were popular nesting sites for hawks and other birds, were cut down. Again—why?

As with the Earth Week tree-chainsawing spree, we were told then that the trees were cut to improve the “the viewshed” from the top of the hill and so that “people driving on Northport Drive can have a better view of the nurse’s dorm.”  What? Really?? Yes, this is what they said. Beautiful, mature trees were cut down so people driving 35+ mph down a county highway can catch a fleeting glimpse of an abandoned, crumbling building on the top of a hill—one that will now be demolished.

Just as ironic and sad, community members involved in focus group discussions last year about the fate of the nurse’s dorm agreed that “healing” was a critical component of what should happen on the land there no matter what became of the building. Focus group participants also agreed that serious stormwater runoff problems in the highly-sloped areas around the nurse’s dorm need to be addressed asap–especially before the building is demolished and the water tower behind it torn down and rebuilt. How is cutting down many large trees going to reduce stormwater runoff? How is this healing the land?

Lake View Hill Park is county public land; it belongs to all of us. Land in this park, especially the large trees, provide precious wildlife food and habitat—habitat that is shrinking and increasingly rare in a city and county where more and more land is being developed, and trees cut down, to make way for roads, condominiums, McMansions and corporate business parks.

Where is the public discussion about what is happening on this public land?  Where is the community discussion about how the many thousands of public dollars per year are spent in this park? Is this really what Northsiders, the broader Madison community, and other citizens of Dane County want—a Lake View hill steeped in toxic pesticides and devoid of trees, so that people have a better “viewshed” from the hilltop and when driving down the road nearby?

It is a sad day indeed when those entrusted with protecting our public park land—in this case, land citizens in the neighborhood worked hard to protect with conservancy zoning—chainsaw down large healthy trees on Earth Day.

For shame, Dane County Parks!


[1] Some mulberry species are native to Wisconsin and others aren’t. At this point, the native and non-native species have hybridized and are very difficult if not impossible to tell apart.

[2] Much of the work in Lake View Hill Park is funded through fees paid to the county by the telecomm companies for having their communication equipment on the Lake View water tower. In the last few years, tens of thousands of dollars of this money have gone to buy pesticides from Dow Agro and other pesticide companies—and to cut down large trees.

Digg thisShare on FacebookShare on Google+Email this to someonePrint this pageShare on RedditShare on TumblrTweet about this on TwitterPin on Pinterest