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PCEs with your Pie, Anyone? Toxic Plume Under Goodman Center Still Ignored…

PCEs with your Pie, Anyone? Toxic Plume Under Goodman Center Still Ignored…

A couple weeks ago, I had lunch with a friend in the Ironworks Café at the Goodman Community Center. The food was delicious and the servers were helpful and friendly.  Pre-school age children were laughing and playing in the playground. Teenage kids were taking plants from the raised-bed gardens just outside the café to the compost pile. We agreed that Goodman’s gardening and food service programs for teens, and other programs for children, are impressive and commendable.

But while munching on my sandwich, I remembered that the highest levels of PCE found on the Goodman property before redevelopment (in 2001) were in soils just a few feet outside my window, under the outdoor cafe. PCE over the enforcement standard level was also found in the groundwater below where the outdoor café is now. It’s not clear how deep this contamination was at the time.

In April 2013, Madison-Kipp Corp. consultants released a map of a huge plume of much higher levels of PCE and other volatile organic compound (VOC) contamination beneath the Goodman property. Given that the highest levels of groundwater contamination at Madison-Kipp are at the northern part of the property, just across the bike path from the center (a few feet from the raised bed gardens), this is not surprising.

The top layers of contaminated soils at Goodman were removed and replaced before the center was opened, but the contaminated groundwater is still there. What levels of PCE and other VOCs are beneath the center now? How far below? Is the plume releasing toxic vapors into the Goodman Center? Nobody knows.

And apparently, nobody wants to know. This month the DNR released documents showing that the agency is finally asking Kipp to sink a shallow well on the Goodman property. But why will this well be located way out in the parking lot area? Toxic vapors released from any shallow groundwater contamination there will mostly dissipate in outdoor air. Whether contamination is or isn’t found there, this will not tell us much about exposures to people inside the Goodman Center. If there are PCEs and other toxic VOCs in shallow groundwater beneath the center, vapors released from this water will likely concentrate beneath the center—and then seep up into the building. Testing way out in the parking lot will tell us little to nothing about exposures to people in the center.

Yet again, we ask: Why are potential toxic exposures to the most vulnerable people—children and seniors in the Goodman Center—being ignored? Why have our questions about these potential exposures been repeatedly ignored or dismissed (and at times even ridiculed) by public health officials and Goodman leaders? Since the significant and widespread PCE and PCB contamination at Kipp was uncovered in 2011-2012, to our knowledge not even a single test has been done at Goodman to see if children there are exposed to Kipp’s contaminants in soil, groundwater, and/or air. Why not?

Perhaps neither Madison-Kipp nor Goodman leaders want to open up this politically messy can of worms—especially since they have been in bed together for years. Madison-Kipp has supported Goodman in a variety of ways, financial and otherwise, since the center’s inception. A year before the center opened, in a May 2007 letter to the Madison Planning Commission, CEO Reed Coleman bragged that “Madison-Kipp is a proud supporter of the new Goodman Atwood community center. What an asset it will be to the entire east side. Madison-Kipp is committed to helping with the success of the new center and have lent our support in numerous ways…” (Ironically, he then goes on to offer parking in the Kipp lot, which we now know was coated in PCBs for years, for Goodman Center users).

While things seem to have been cozy historically between Madison-Kipp and Goodman, opening up the can of worms related to Kipp’s toxic contamination plume under Goodman could turn very ugly, with former bedfellows quickly becoming enemies. Though Goodman closure documents explicitly state that Kipp is the source of the PCEs in the groundwater under the Goodman property, if this issue was opened up again, Kipp would likely blame past industrial activities on the Goodman property (e.g., Kupfer Ironworks). In a March 2012 email to the DNR and other public officials, Kipp attorney David Crass resisted DNR’s request that soil vapor probes be placed on the bike path north of the Kipp property,[1] noting that “…historic PCE use has been documented at the Goodman Center property, which will lead to questions regarding origins of any results and will infect any future decisionmaking regarding the results.”

Hmmm. So maybe it’s to both Goodman’s and Madison-Kipp’s benefit to stay mum and resist testing, and deny any public health risks at Goodman—regardless of the source of the pollution—rather than face the uncomfortable prospect of intense political, legal, and financial battles with former bedfellows?  In a twisted way, perhaps Kipp and Goodman are protecting each other?

What about government officials? Why are they so adamantly declaring that there are no exposures whatsoever in the center, though there haven’t been any tests? It seems they are either woefully unaware of the current scientific research and EPA guidances on PCE vapor intrusion (which indicate that vapor intrusion should be investigated in the Goodman building), or they are totally ignoring them. Of course, they approved the re-development of the Goodman Center in 2008 apparently without considering vapor intrusion, even though extremely high levels of PCE and other VOCs had already been well documented on the northern part of the Kipp property (just feet away from the Goodman building) beginning in 1994. If tests now were to show that vapors from the plume under Goodman are leaking into the center (and/or that children there are exposed to other toxic contamination from Kipp), blame for the lack of oversight that led to these exposures would be directed at them. Maybe not testing at all is way to avoid this uncomfortable situation?

So if our suspicions are correct, Madison-Kipp, Goodman leaders, and government officials alike are, ironically, protecting each other (intentionally or not) by putting their concerns about politics, money, and reputations above assessing risks to children and seniors, who apparently don’t matter in their political games. How unethical is this?

Note to readers: We would love for our speculations above to be wrong. If anyone out there wants to disagree—or better yet, send information disproving anything said above—please do so! Email info@mejo.us



[1] Vapor probes were eventually placed along the south edge of the bike path and results from 3/30/12 and 10/26/12 showed concerning levels of PCE and several of its breakdown products at the probe right across from the circle gathering area at Goodman. If these levels were under a building, they would likely be a problem as far as vapor intrusion inside the center. But it seems nobody will test inside—or even anywhere near—the center.

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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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Fireworks Over Downtown Madison Pose No Long-term Health Risks? We Disagree

Fireworks Over Downtown Madison Pose No Long-term Health Risks? We Disagree

Jeff Lafferty of Public Health Madison Dane County (PHMDC) assured the public in recent newspaper articlesOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA that the huge Rhythm & Booms fireworks show planned for downtown Madison in 2014 poses no long-term public health risks. In response, here’s the statement we wrote after PHMDC discounted environmental and public health risks of the Warner Park Rhythm & Booms show, based on studies before and after the 2013 show. The same arguments are relevant now in considering the public and environmental health risks of a huge downtown fireworks show. Here’s what we wrote:

Why is Public Health Madison Dane County more interested in protecting the fireworks show than in protecting public and environmental health?

In a recent op-ed, Janel Heinrich, the Director of Public Health Madison Dane County (PHMDC) questions comments made by the northside grassroots group Wild Warner on the ecological effects of Rhythm & Booms fireworks. Ms Heinrich asserts that the group “exaggerates” findings of a 2012 Rhythm & Booms fireworks study and that their claims about environmental effects of this huge fireworks display are “speculation” and “opinion.”

Unfortunately, Ms Heinrich resorts to speculation and opinion herself rather than drawing on a large body of scientific research—or even reviewing results of her own department’s 2005 Rhythm & Booms fireworks’ study and comparing them to the 2012 results.  The 2005 PHMDC study showed significant spikes in several toxic metals in Warner lagoon surface water after both Madison Mallard and Rhythm & Booms fireworks shows. In fact, based on their results, public health department staff, the authors of the report, concluded that “firework displays at Warner Park do impact the water quality in the lagoon in the park.”

Did metal concentrations after the 2012 show (unlike after the 2005 show) really show “no discernable change,” as Ms Heinrich highlights? Did emissions from the 2012 fireworks somehow not fall onto the lagoon beneath them? This is extremely unlikely (if not impossible), but unfortunately, the 2012 study did not include appropriate background samples, making it difficult to see spikes in chemicals in the lagoon after Rhythm & Booms. In the 2005 study, background water samples and post-fireworks samples were timed in a way that could detect spikes in metals emitted from fireworks in Warner lagoon after the fireworks. Still, interestingly the 2012 pre- and post-fireworks water levels of some metals, such as barium and strontium, were significantly higher than 2005 pre- and post-fireworks samples.

Public health authors of the 2005 report also concluded that the toxic metals emitted from the fireworks “most likely sank into the sediment in the lagoon upon reaching the water.” In other words, they knew that decreases in metals in water in the weeks after the show did not mean they magically disappeared—but that they moved elsewhere in the environment (most likely the sediments). Ms Heinrich, in contrast, states that perchlorate decreased to background levels in surface water after the 2012 fireworks “due to microbial degradation”—a claim based on speculation, not evidence, from the draft report—and “dilution,” which is just another way of saying it spread out and went elsewhere. Perchlorate is highly mobile in the environment. Since perchlorate wasn’t tested for anywhere else, we don’t really know where it went after the 2012 show or previous shows. Not knowing where it went does not mean it is no longer there.

Further, it is disturbing that our public health department director expressed no concern whatsoever about the human health effects of this huge fireworks show and others like it. Many studies show that fireworks displays emit numerous toxic metals (strontium, barium, lead, mercury, cadmium, arsenic, and more), dioxins, and radioactive materials into the air at times at levels well above urban background levels (which include automobile exhaust). One study found over 500 times more barium in the snow after a fireworks show than that measured before the show. Another study found numerous metals in air well above background levels—including strontium 86 times above, cobalt nine times, and lead seven times above background air levels. Neither the 2005 nor the 2012  Rhythm & Booms studies tested air during or after the shows, but many of these contaminants were likely in the air at similar levels as those found in these studies.

Fireworks contaminants fall as tiny particulates onto the people attending shows—including many infants and children—who then have no choice but to inhale them. Inhalation of particulates emitted from fireworks causes spikes in asthma and cardiovascular attacks—and emergency room visits rise during fireworks shows and in the days immediately following them. Children, elderly, asthmatics, and people with cardiovascular problems are particularly at risk. The effects are not just limited to the areas immediately under the shows. Clouds of fireworks contaminants often travel to other parts of the city, where they can linger for days.

Wild Warner’s statements about effects of fireworks chemicals on wildlife and the environment are also far from “speculation” and “opinion.” Firstly, no scientific study is required to understand that contaminants released from hundreds if not thousands of pounds of exploding fireworks fall onto land, water, people, and wildlife beneath the shows. More importantly, it is well-documented scientifically that once in the environment, heavy metals and chlorinated compounds are highly persistent, build up in ecological food webs over time, and affect wildlife health. These effects were not assessed in the recent studies, but that doesn’t mean they did not or will not occur over time as chemicals from yearly fireworks shows build up in the environment.

Basic ecology tells us that once toxic contaminants are in the ecological food web, they usually find their way into human bodies as well, though it may take a long time. Contaminants build up in sediments, then aquatic organisms and plants, then fish and wildlife, and then people. Subsistence anglers who fish in Warner Park and other Madison lakes—many of whom are low-income people of color who rely on fish as a food source—are particularly vulnerable because they eat fish regularly. Toxic metals and organochlorines in fish end up in their bodies and brains, potentially causing neurological, immune, endocrine, and other problems years after they ate the fish.

It is troubling, to say the least, that Madison’s public health department seems so eager to discount concerns about environmental and public health risks from this huge fireworks display, especially given the abundant scientific evidence that these concerns are merited.  Why is Public Health Madison Dane County more interested in protecting the fireworks show than in protecting public and environmental health?

 

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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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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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