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Ignorance is Bliss (Part 3 )

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

Overview: Toxic Contaminants From Above and Below

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

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

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

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

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

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

Full article: MEJO Ignorance is Bliss Part 3

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Ignorance is Bliss (Part 2)

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

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

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

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

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

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

Removal of the existing barrier;

Replacement with another barrier;

Excavating or grading of the land surface;

Filling on capped or paved areas;

Plowing for agricultural cultivation; or

Construction or placement of a building or other structure.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Goodman Excavation4

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

___________________

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

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

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

MEJO Ignorance is Bliss Part 2

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Ignorance is Bliss (Part 2 Cont.)

A Note about the Industrial History of the Goodman and Kipp sites

According to Goodman’s 2008 closure documents, previous manufacturing activities at the Goodman Community Center property included metal cutting, welding, machining, sandblasting, and painting. Several underground and aboveground storage tanks for heating oil, diesel fuel, and gasoline, and lead battery storage, were located on the property. A railroad spur was located underneath the crane gantry. Soils on the Goodman Community Center site were tested numerous times as the property changed hands.

Not surprisingly, given the site’s past industrial uses, these tests showed several toxic metals (including arsenic and lead) and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) at levels orders of magnitude above the DNR’s residual contaminant level (RCL) standards for human contact. In one area lead in soil was 12,600 parts per million (ppm); soils in other areas had lead levels in the several hundreds and/or thousands of parts per million. The RCL for lead in soil is 50 ppm. Past testing showed that some soils and groundwater at Goodman also had elevated tetrachloroethylene (PCE) levels. Closure documents suggest that PCE in groundwater there is from Madison-Kipp Corporation; however, MEJO’s investigations indicate that past industries at Goodman may have also used PCE.

Most of the surface soils at the Goodman site were removed and/or capped before the site was developed, as the October 2012 article below describes. Goodman closure documents state that “contaminated soil at the site was removed to a depth to allow at least 1 foot of impervious paving materials or 2 feet of landscaping materials.”  Soils were not removed or capped at all in the area where the compost pile and chicken coops are currently (see Oct. 2012 article below). This area was highly contaminated with lead, arsenic, and PAHs.

The last time Goodman soils were tested was in 2007, before the site was remediated and re-developed. No testing was done after remediation excavation. DNR laws requiring testing of soils excavated on remediated sites are intended to assure that there is no remaining contamination and/or that no new contamination has been deposited since the last testing. Hopefully, given that children play on this property, and some food is grown there, little residual contamination remains. But wouldn’t it be best to be sure—in other words, to follow the laws requiring testing when excavating—than to just assume things are OK without any testing?

Of course, soils and groundwater at the adjacent Madison-Kipp Corp. property—only a few feet away from the Goodman Center property—are known to be highly contaminated with PCE, PCBs, several toxic metals, and numerous other contaminants. Kipp’s many air stacks emit chlorine, hydrogen chloride, dioxins, metals, volatile organic compounds, fine particulates, and more; these air pollutants are inhaled by people living and playing nearby, and deposit on soils surrounding the plant (including at Goodman). Goodman leaders knew about Kipp’s air emissions when they developed the center, but decided this pollution was not a significant concern for kids who use the center.

Did the DNR let the then community center leaders know about the spreading contaminant plume they had been documenting beneath Kipp (since 1994) when they purchased the property for the Goodman Center development? And, given everything that has happened since the site was developed, why isn’t the DNR demanding that Kipp test further to the north to see if the plume has traveled beneath the Goodman site? Why aren’t Goodman leaders asking DNR and Kipp to test to assure that the contaminant plume isn’t under their center—and vapors from this plume aren’t being released into the building?

MEJO’s investigations to date suggest that Madison-Kipp Corp. may be pressuring the DNR not to test too far to the north towards the Goodman property. Why? Is the DNR bowing to pressure from Kipp instead of doing the right thing and testing to make sure kids and others at Goodman are not exposed to toxic chemicals?

___________________

NEXT IN SERIES: What about Kipp’s air pollution?

While the recent public focus has been on Kipp’s soil and groundwater contamination, there are just as many unanswered questions about how the substantial air pollution from Kipp’s facilities might affect vulnerable groups in the neighborhood—and everyone living and working nearby. Kipp’s air stacks emit fine particulate matter, several chlorinated compounds (including dioxin), heavy metals, and numerous other pollutants into the air around these facilities every day. Minority and low-income children at Lowell School and the Goodman Center are already at higher risk for asthma and respiratory problems, so they are even more vulnerable to exposure to these air contaminants.

Addressing questions about how Kipp Corporations’ air pollution affects people in the neighborhood is particularly relevant now, since Kipp just received a “Notice of Violation” on Sept. 4, 2012 from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), with implications related to their emissions of hazardous air pollutants, especially chlorinated compounds.

 

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Ignorance is Bliss (Part 1)

Environmental Justice Issues at Madison-Kipp and Goodman Community Center Ignored

The east side of Madison, Wisconsin, is not a place most people would expect to have environmental justice problems. Toxic pollution, many assume, affects children, elderly, low income people and minorities in heavily industrialized, economically and racially segregated cities like Milwaukee. But such disparities don’t happen in “eco-friendly,” privileged and predominantly white cities like Madison—right?

Wrong. In the heart of Madison’s Atwood neighborhood, a neighborhood known for its liberal politics and progressive environmental culture, serious environmental injustices have been festering for many years, and the powers-that-be seem to be looking the other way. Why?

Madison Kipp Corporation First, some background. The recent citizen lawsuit brought against Madison Kipp Corporation, an aluminum and zinc die-casting facility in the Atwood neighborhood, is bringing much-needed public and political attention to the decades of toxic pollution from this factory and the plights of the unfortunate homeowners next to it. Several toxic chemicals released from Kipp over decades, including PCE (perchloroethylene), have spread into soils and groundwater around and beneath homes near the factory, and some of these chemicals are coming up into the homes as vapors. Yet the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR), the Wisconsin Department of Health Services (DHS), and Public Health Madison Dane County (PHMDC), quietly documented high levels of contaminants just feet away from homes for many years and said nothing to nearby homeowners—or downplayed the problem to the few they did notify—until it became too big to ignore.

“These homeowners certainly deserve compensation for their long-term exposures to toxic chemicals and lowered home values” notes Maria Powell, leader and community-based researcher with the Midwest Environmental Justice Organization (MEJO). “I hope the lawsuit results in adequate monetary compensation for these people—though nothing can really compensate them for future health problems that might result from their exposures, and the stress this situation has caused them.”

What about vulnerable people near Kipp? Oddly, despite attention the lawsuit has brought to Kipp Corporation’s pollution, there has been a disturbing silence about impacts of the factory’s ongoing air, soil, and water pollution on children at Goodman Community Center, right next to Kipp, and at Lowell School, about a half a block away. There are also several daycare providers and parks in the neighborhood. The Goodman Center serves many low-income minority kids in its pre-school and afterschool programs, facilitates food service training programs for teens, and also organizes programs for seniors. Lowell grade school has a 50% poverty rate, and a growing number of African American, Hmong, and Latino students attend the school.

Yet even with the recent heightened public attention to Kipp’s pollution, prompted by the citizen lawsuit, no local or state government agencies have ever monitored air or soils to see if children at Goodman Center, Lowell School, or daycare facilities near Kipp are being exposed to harmful levels of Kipp contaminants—though MEJO, Clean Air Madison (CAM), and some Kipp neighbors have asked for such testing for many years. “Everybody knows these facilities are right next to Kipp, and everyone knows they serve children, including a high proportion of low income kids of color. Why has nobody in environmental or public health agencies ever bothered to assess what these kids are being exposed to—or to even ask these questions?”

When MEJO leaders and neighbors asked why they haven’t tested at Goodman Center after the PCE contamination was made public in 2011, DNR project manager for the Kipp site, Michael Schmoller, said his “gut feelings” tell him there are no problems at Goodman. “This approach is not only highly unscientific—it’s also unethical,” Powell says. “When dealing with potential health risks to kids, they should get actual data to identify or rule out exposures, not rely on “gut feelings.”

Meanwhile, there have been obvious instances in which kids were directly exposed to Kipp contaminants. In 2006, for example, Whitehorse Middle School kids and teachers created a large rain garden at the end of a storm drain on the northeast corner of the Kipp Corporation property. [1] At that point, Kipp consultant reports submitted to the DNR in the 1990s clearly documented a storm drain leading from the Kipp factory directly to the rain garden area; the drain was the receptacle of decades of factory runoff heavily contaminated with PCE, vinyl chloride, and myriad other toxic contaminants. Barrels of highly toxic PCBs (polychlorinated biphenyls) were stored nearby, and used on the site for many years, according to documents dating back to the 1980s. In late 2011, in DNR investigations spurred by the lawsuit, the northeast part of the Kipp property where the rain garden is located was found to be a PCE hotspot, and in spring 2012 PCBs were also discovered in soils near there. DNR officials acted surprised by these findings, and the department issued Kipp a “Notice of Violation,” yet reports in their files clearly pointed to these problems years before the rain garden was created.

“I find it unconscionable that Kipp, several government agencies, and neighborhood groups enthusiastically funded and organized a project in which these kids and their teachers dug up that soil—without at the very least testing for contamination first. These kids had no gloves or other protective gear, nor were they informed that they were digging up contaminated soil. And, why would anyone decide that a rain garden is an appropriate way to deal with heavily contaminated runoff from an aluminum and zinc smelter with known serious contamination problems in the first place?” Powell asks.

Goodman Community Center Contamination The Goodman Center site, just a hundred feet or so north of the Kipp factory, housed several industrial and manufacturing facilities, beginning in 1880, that performed metal cutting, welding, machining, sandblasting, and painting. When the Goodman site was purchased in 2005 by the Atwood Community Center (which later changed its name to Goodman [2]), testing showed that soils on the property were widely contaminated with numerous toxic contaminants, including heavy metals (especially arsenic and lead), polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), and several chlorinated compounds, including PCEs. Documents state that the chlorinated compounds found in groundwater beneath the site came from Kipp. [3] Contaminated soils were partially removed on most of the property and replaced with clean soil and/or “capped” (in part, by buildings, walkways and parking lots) before the center was approved for closure by the DNR in 2008. At that time, a signed “Contaminated Soil Cap Maintenance Plan” required the center to follow certain steps and notify the DNR before doing any maintenance or construction projects on the site, to prevent contamination from being re-released. MEJO’s investigations so far, however, have found no evidence that Goodman Center is following this agreement. [See sidebar]

Goodman Center closure reports also document PCB contamination in some walls, floors, and beams throughout the inside of the center’s main building. Identified PCB-laden materials were cleaned thoroughly and/or covered with non-contaminated materials. Powell notes, however, “Over time, PCBs could be re-released, for example, during maintenance, cleaning and remodeling, leading to exposures to kids or workers there. Hopefully someone is testing to make sure PCBs are not being re-released, and kids or others at the center are not being exposed.” Further, PCB testing was not very thorough, so it is not clear how widespread the contamination is in or around the building.

Goodman Excavation1| | Current excavation at the Goodman Community Center (October 2012) | |

Goodman Excavation2

According to MEJO’s investigations, teenagers and young adults working in Ironworks Café and/or in other Goodman educational programs have not been informed of any contaminants in the center buildings or elsewhere on the site. Regardless, several workers shared concerns about pollution from Kipp, which is about 100 feet away from the café, and easily visible from the café windows. One employee mentioned hearing explosions and sirens in the factory on occasion, and Kipp employees are sometimes seen wrapping barrels of waste and loading them into trucks. On the driveway between Kipp and the Ironworks Café, trucks and other vehicles containing fuel, highly toxic chlorine, environmental waste, and remediation equipment frequently rumble by café windows.

Another café worker wondered about whether Kipp groundwater contaminant vapors that have seeped under the Goodman building are coming up through the drains in the café floor—and whether his frequent feelings of nausea and headaches in the café could be related to that or to pollution from Kipp’s several large stacks, just a few hundred feet away. Goodman workers also expressed concern about the compost pile on the corner of the property just across from the Kipp rain garden, used to fertilize raised bed gardens on the center’s property, which supply some food to the Ironworks Cafe.

Goodman Garden and Chicken CoopMEJO’s investigations suggest that Goodman workers may have reason to be concerned. Though soil on much of the Goodman site was removed or partially removed, soil in the area where the compost pile and chicken coops are located was not removed or remediated. Consultant documents from 2005 show that this area was contaminated with several heavy metals, including arsenic and lead, as well as PAHs.

Moreover, the PCE hotspot found in late 2011 near the rain garden on the Kipp property is just across the bike path from the compost pile. Hazardous air pollutants released from several large Kipp stacks are also likely deposited onto the compost. Given this, Powell wonders if anyone has ever tested the compost to make sure it’s safe to put on food gardens. “Given the historic lack of concern about contaminant exposures to vulnerable people near Kipp” she speculates, “my guess is—probably not.” MEJO has found no evidence of such testing to date.

Government documents include no mentions of risks to vulnerable groups Disturbingly, MEJO’s thorough reviews of DNR and public health agency documents to date have not found a single mention of potential exposures to vulnerable groups in the Kipp neighborhood. “Governmental officials have expressed no interest in or intent to assess exposures to these groups during public meetings and our interactions with them,” says Powell. “They have ignored our questions about these exposures for years.” Further, she notes, “Many of the most at-risk people around Kipp—low income people, minorities, kids, and elderly—are not at all aware of Kipp’s pollution and how it might affect them, and have not been engaged in public or political discussions about it so far.”

Watch for Part II of this series for more on this development–and on Kipp’s history of air pollution, how it might affect vulnerable people in the neighborhood, and how government officials have handled these matters.

________________

[1] http://www.rockrivercoalition.org/publications/newsletters/RRCfall2006c.pdf (see bottom of p. 8 for photo of kids working on raingarden). The project was initiated by the Rock River Coalition, Friends of Starkweather Creek, Earth & Water Works, LLC and funded by a Dane County Water Quality Initiative grant. Project partners included City of Madison, Madison Kipp Corporation, Schenk, Atwood, Starkweather, Yahara, Neighborhood Association (SASYNA), MG&E, Atwood Community Center (now the Goodman Center), and more.

[2] The property was purchased through an anonymous donor (whom many in the neighborhood speculate is Reed Coleman, chairman of Madison-Kipp Corp.– though this has been rebutted by the center’s director as “100% false”), and the center renovation was funded by a large donation from Madison’s Goodman brothers. [Later in this series: the Coleman family’s political and philanthropy history in relation to Kipp and the Atwood neighborhood] [3] The DNR claimed, when asked about this in Oct. 2011, not to have any knowledge about the PCE contamination under Goodman, or the source of the PCE, even though documents in their files clearly identify the source as Kipp.

MEJO Ignorance is Bliss Part 1

 

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MEJO Investigates: Contamination at Goodman – Remediation plan being followed?

MEJO Investigates: Contamination at Goodman – Remediation plan being followed?

The Goodman Community Center, behind Madison-Kipp Corp. on Waubesa Street, opened its doors in 2009 in a renovated factory with industrial use going back to the 1880s. In spite of concern from neighbors that offering programs for children a heavily industrial area was problematic, the Center purchased the property and went through an environmental remediation process that included a Contaminated Soil Cap Maintenance Plan prepared by BT2, Inc. This October 2008 document includes plans for annual inspections and maintenance, including a barrier inspection log to document any breaks in the “cap” and how they were addressed.

Further, in line with this maintenance plan, the formal DNR closure agreement letter for Goodman Center reads:

“If soil or waste material are excavated in the future, then pursuant to [applicable DNR statutes], the property owner…must sample and analyze the excavated material to determine if residual contamination remains. If sampling confirms that contamination is present, the property owner…will need to determine whether the material would be considered solid or hazardous waste and ensure that any storage, treatment or disposal is in compliance with applicable standards and rules. In addition, all current and future owners and occupants of the property need to be aware that excavation of the contaminated soil may pose in inhalation or other direct contact hazard and as a result special precautions may need to be taken to prevent a direct contact health threat to humans.”

Goodman began excavation for an expanded kitchen facility in September 2012. Did they get prior written approval from the DNR for this excavation, as required? Did they test the soil before digging? Let’s hope so. But an initial MEJO inquiry at the Center indicates that no testing has been done since the original remediation.

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Community Center and School At-Risk

Madison-Kipp Sued by State and Cited by EPA

Madison’s oldest polluter, Madison-Kipp Corp, is being sued by the State of Wisconsin for PCB contamination. In early September, the U.S. EPA sent Kipp a notice of violation of its air emissions permit. And a class action lawsuit against is scheduled to go to trial in January.

After decades of activism to address Kipp pollution, neighborhood residents are finally seeing public officials take action. But why has it taken so long? And what will actually change?

Kipp is next door to Goodman Community Center, built in a renovated contaminated industrial site, and a few hundred feet away from Lowell Elementary School. Both facilities serve a high percentage of low-income minority children, who daily are put in harm’s way.

MEJO begins a multi-part environmental justice series on the ongoing tragedy that is Kipp and the Atwood neighborhood. Dr. Maria Powell, MEJO founder, discusses Kipp’s impact on the neighborhood below. And in a new project, MEJO Investigates, we look in the history of Kipp’s pollution record (see sidebar).

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MEJO Investigates 1

MEJO is reviewing more than a thousand pages of Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources documents on Madison Kipp Corp and the adjacent Goodman Community Center (which is built on a contaminated industrial site formerly occupied by Durline Scales and Kupfer Ironworks).

DNR has been aware of numerous pollution issues for decades and the level of non-action is staggering. While Madison Kipp should be held fully accountable for its actions, DNR documents paint a picture of long-term institutional “turning a blind eye” to problems that neighbors have been seeking to resolve for decades.

Below are two examples of information culled from DNR documents relevant to current developments.

PCBS AT KIPP – When did the DNR know?

The Wisconsin Department of Justice filed suit against Madison-Kipp Corp. on Sept. 28, 2012. Item # 10 of the complaint reads:

“10.  On March 26, 2006, Madison-Kipp was advised by its consultant that spent oil containing PCBs had been spread at the facility as a dust suppressant.  This information was not shared with the DNR until April, 2012.” [Emphasis added]

MEJO found the March 16, 2006 consultant report from RSV Engineering, Inc. in DNR records. The report is signed by Robert Nauta, a hydrogeologist who has worked on Kipp environmental projects for several consulting firms over the years. Nauta’s cover letter of the report reads:

“PCB oils in asphalt sub-base:  Although there have been no tests to demonstrate the actual presence of PCBs in the gravel base beneath the asphalt at the site, RSV understands that the presence of potentially PCB-containing oils for dust suppressions was practiced at the Subject Property prior to paving.  However, as indicated above [reference to acknowledged PCE contamination and ongoing remediation], RSV understands that the chemical injection process being utilized for soil remediation is also capable of remediating impacts from PCB releases.”

So DNR received Kipp’s consultant’s report in 2006 and apparently no one read it! Is this an anomaly, an unfortunate situation where paperwork slipped between the cracks, and no one knew about Kipp’s PCB use?  Well, you be the judge…

LATER IN THE SERIES:

DNR defends Kipp when environmentalists draw attention to PCB problems at Kipp—“Kipp was being a good corporate citizen.”

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MEJO in the News

MEJO in “Environmental Health News”

Pollution, Poverty, People of Color: Warnings about contaminated fish fail to reach people most at risk

By Rae Tyson Environmental Health News September 13, 2012

MADISON, Wis.–Trey Mackey expertly baits his fishing hook with a live worm, sits down on a folding chair and casts a line into the waters of Monona Bay. He’s driven up from Chicago for a day of fishing that could provide a fresh, tasty dinner of blue gill.

See more here:

http://www.environmentalhealthnews.org/ehs/news/2012/fish-advisories-and-environmental-justice

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A better approach?

GONE FISHING!

Instead of continuing to beg our environmental & public health agencies to monitor toxins in water and fish, which we’ve learned is a futile endeavor, we’ve decided to go catch some fish in southern Wisconsin lakes and streams–good sources of fresh, local food. And they’re free!

Yes, free food! But are they free of toxins? Unfortunately, no. How much mercury, other heavy metals, PCBs, pesticides, pharmaceuticals, and other toxins will we ingest if we eat southern Wisconsin fish regularly? We don’t know. We don’t have the resources to find out, and apparently neither do our government agencies.

So we’re just going to take our chances. Free food is free food! In these hard economic times, beggars can’t be choosers.

Feel free to join us fishin’ anytime! See you out there on the Four Lakes reeling em’ in.

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Greenwashing and Doublespeak in Wisconsin Highway Plan

The price tag for the Wisconsin Department of Transportation two-decade, three-phase plan for the reconstruction of the Verona Road and West Beltline interchange in Madison , Wis. , has risen to $500 million.

A presidential executive order requires that environmental justice concerns be addressed when using federal funds; and there are environmental justice concerns: the DOT plan calls for increased air pollution that will put an already at risk neighborhood even more at risk, ignores key air pollutants, and does not require air monitoring or a health impact study.

What right to clean air and moderate noise pollution does the poorest neighborhood in Madison have? Apparently none.

By taking a greenwashing approach to its environmental justice mandate, the Wisconsin Dept of Transportation makes it abundantly clear that local residents may have a say over a pedestrian path here or there (and get a free meal at meetings), but have no say in the health impacts caused by greater pollution and higher noise levels over the coming decades.

By a torturous path of doublespeak, the Wisconsin Department of Transportation has stated that the predicted air pollution increases are acceptable and will not negatively impact residents in the Allied and Dunn’s Marsh neighborhoods adjacent to Verona Road .

For details on the problems with the plan, see MEJO’s Dec 17, 2010 comments on the Department’s draft environmental impact study here: MEJO Comments on WisDOT SDEIS 12-17-10

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