Wisconsin DNR

Foxconn’s Horrific Worker Safety & Environmental Record Coming to Wisconsin??

Foxconn’s Horrific Worker Safety & Environmental Record Coming to Wisconsin??

Photo: Fire at Foxconn factory in China.

“State officials and lawmakers are working on an incentive package to lure giant Taiwanese iPhone manufacturer Foxconn to Wisconsin,” the Wisconsin State Journal reported on July 21, 2017.

Foxconn would like to build a $7 billion plant in the U.S. to build display panels for Apple iPhones and iPads, and is considering several states for a factory. Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald told WSJ that lawmakers are talking about “huge, big numbers” to offer Foxconn to lure them to Wisconsin.

According to the WSJ article, Foxconn has explored several potential sites for a factory in southeastern and central Wisconsin, including in Dane County. Company officials have held a number of private meetings with politicians to negotiate options, but Fitzgerald said so far “all negotiations with the company are being conducted with the administration and have not significantly included legislators.” Governor Walker hosted Foxconn founder and chairman Terry Gou at his Maple Bluff mansion last week.

Oddly, recent local news stories about Wisconsin politicians’ proposed incentives to lure Foxconn here have not raised any questions about the company’s horrific environmental and worker safety record in China, where it has manufactured devices for Apple and other companies for years. A simple google search on the company quickly pulls up numerous articles about Foxconn factory explosions, worker accidents, deaths, and toxic environmental pollution.

In 2010, 18 Foxconn workers jumped to their deaths due to despair over working conditions in the factory. Here’s what happened after the Foxconn suicides. In 2011, an explosion killed three workers at a Foxconn plant.

Here’s a sampling of other articles about Foxconn’s appalling environmental and worker safety issues:

Workers Sickened by Apple Supplier in China

By the Numbers: Life and Death at Foxconn

In China, Human Costs are Built Into iPad

Apple’s Chinese Suppliers in Trouble For Environmental Pollution

China’s Apple Suppliers Face Toxic Heavy Metal Water Pollution Charges

Dying for an iPhone: the lives of Chinese workers

Some people will undoubtedly argue that Foxconn won’t get away with sickening its workers and spewing toxic pollution into waterways here in Wisconsin, as they do in China. These optimists should be reminded of Wisconsin DNR’s record of letting industrial polluters off the hook for significant regulatory violations (e.g., see here, here, and here). What will Walker’s industry-friendly DNR allow Foxconn to get away with in Wisconsin?

Politicians are excited by the promise of thousands of new jobs in the state, but hopefully everyone will not put their heads in the sand about Foxconn’s record. Before they welcome Foxconn here with huge incentives, legislators and citizens better wake up and start asking questions about the company’s worker safety and environmental record and how responsibly the company would operate here—and about how diligent Wisconsin’s DNR and state OSHA offices will be in enforcing our already inadequate worker safety and environmental regulations. Jobs that make workers sick (or kill them)—and pollute their air, drinking water, local waterways and fish—are not good jobs, even if Wisconsin politicians promote them as such.

Below, workers at a Foxconn factory in China.








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What ever became of the DOJ lawsuit against Kipp?

What ever became of the DOJ lawsuit against Kipp?

In September 2012, the Wisconsin DOJ filed a lawsuit against Madison Kipp Corporation. It is still unresolved. Why? Because it was always intended as a tool to protect Kipp from having to pay the true costs of polluting the neighborhood—and people’s bodies—with toxic chemicals. Given this, why would Kipp want to resolve it?

Here’s an abridged timeline:

July 25, 2011: The “intent to sue” under the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) was filed by Chicago attorneys on behalf of seven Kipp neighbors, with 90 days to file the lawsuit. Kipp called each of these neighbors and tried to convene a meeting to convince them to drop the lawsuit, but failed to do so.

August, 2011: With the lawsuit going forward despite Kipp’s attempts to stop it, a different strategy was pursued—to attempt deflecting it by having the State of Wisconsin sue Kipp. A team including Kipp management and attorneys, DNR and DHS representatives started working on a document called the “Scope of Work” (SOW). According DNR’s Michael Schmoller (in September 2011), the DNR’s intent was to include the SOW in a consent order between DNR and Kipp and to complete it before the RCRA lawsuit was filed.[1]

October 13, 2011: After the State of Wisconsin tried to bring a suit against Kipp in federal court to render the citizens’ class action suit moot, a judge ruled that the state was not statutorily authorized to bring a suit in federal court. In Schmoller’s 2012 legal depositions (see here and here) it was revealed that Kipp officials had visited Governor Walker’s office and asked that the State of Wisconsin sue the company in federal court. After this attempt failed, the DOJ decided to file the lawsuit in state court.

October 15, 2011: Citizens asked for a public meeting, which was then rushed because Kipp’s attorney David Crass (Michael Best & Friedrich) demanded that government agencies hold the meeting before the 90 day intent to sue period ended. At the Oct. 15 meeting, DNR’s Air and Waste Program Manager Eileen Pierce announced to citizens that the state had referred the Kipp case to the Department of Justice that week.

Citizens suspected, correctly, that this was another attempt to deflect the RCRA lawsuit or to “cut a sweetheart deal” for Kipp. They were disingenuously promised input into the SOW mentioned at the meeting—but of course they were never allowed any real input because it was part of lawsuit negotiations.

October 20, 2011: Class action RCRA lawsuit was filed.

For the next several months, behind closed doors, the SOW team, with strong direction from Kipp’s attorney David Crass, negotiated what would and would not be done regarding vapor intrusion and soil/groundwater contamination caused by Kipp. DNR and Kipp’s attorneys discussed (apparently for the first time since 1994 when the VOCs were discovered at Kipp) how Kipp could satisfy regulations relevant to the situation (NR700).

March, 2012: PCBs were “discovered” at Kipp at levels so high that EPA involvement was required. But fortunately for Kipp, though DNR had to coordinate with EPA on the PCB situation, the State of Wisconsin is in the lead in addressing the situation, according to the DNR-EPA’s “One Cleanup Program Memorandum of Agreement” or MOA.

The nature and extent of the PCB cleanup were then incorporated into the SOW negotiations. As with VOCs, Kipp’s attorneys, DNR and DOJ began to negotiate how Kipp could fulfill PCB regulations they had violated for decades.

August-September, 2012: DOJ attorney Steve Tinker and David Crass together drafted the DOJ “stipulation and order.” One of the terms they came up with was “Compliance with the terms of this Stipulation and Order shall constitute full satisfaction and release of the defendant Madison-Kipp Corporation, including its officials and employees, from all civil and/or criminal liability for any and all Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR) violations that might arise from the facts alleged in the complaint.” The initial draft proposed a “total penalty inclusive of all forfeitures and surcharges of $500,000” that would be reduced to $200,000 “should Madison-Kipp fully comply with the various DNR approved plans, within the agreed upon time limits and pays the DNR its cost recovery.”

September 28, 2012: With the above stipulation agreed upon by Kipp and DOJ, the DOJ lawsuit against Kipp was filed.

July 15 2013: Class action RCRA lawsuit settlement was proposed.

October 28, 2013: RCRA lawsuit was settled; Kipp paid $7.2 million to neighbors.

DOJ lawsuit negotiations, including the SOW, continued behind closed doors, unbeknownst to the public.

August 27, 2014: Kipp met with EPA to discuss how they will clean up the high levels of PCBs in soils and groundwater under the factory.

August 3, 2016: EPA wrote to DNR and Kipp.“While EPA presumes the parties continue to negotiate in good faith in this matter, EPA suggests that the time has come for the parties to promptly finalize the proposed agreement that addresses the PCB contamination at the MKC site.”  Notably, someone from EPA Superfund program was copied on this letter.

August 12, 2016: Kipp’s attorney David Crass at Michael Best responded to EPA, admitting that “these settlement negotiations reach back some time” but “that is not to say that the matter has been dormant since the parties’ meeting in August 2014” and “MKC has accomplished much by way of further investigation and remediation at the site generally and specifically with respect to polychlorinated biphenyls.” He proposed to meet on in September after a Sept. 7 meeting scheduled for MKC and State representatives.

November-December 2016 (specific date unknown) Kipp/DNR/DOJ/EPA met. Meeting notes included part of settlement communication (dated September 29 2016) among Kipp, DNR, and DOJ. In this settlement excerpt, it says “PCBs have been present in the soils beneath the Madison Kipp facility for nearly 50 years” (it has likely been much longer than this) and “The State and Madison-Kipp are discussing an iterative process to monitor and, if necessary, remediate soil beneath the facility if it is confirmed that PCBs have dissolved into and impacted groundwater,” and described various options for dealing with this.

Also, it said, the “State of Wisconsin and Madison-Kipp” have discussed a “financial assurance mechanism” whereby Kipp assures the state it will establish a fund of $1.2 million to clean up PCBs. (This is not remotely enough to clean up the PCBs there—and is a drop in the bucket for Kipp).

October-December 2016: PCBs over the RCLs were found in the raingarden, which was already “closed” by DNR in July 2016.

February 14, 2017: Kipp’s consultants submitted a report asserting that “the detections of dissolved PCBs in three monitoring wells…beneath the MKC facility footprint are suspected to have been caused by the installation of the wells and not an indication of PCBs migrating in groundwater at the site.” Consultants argued that “Numerous references conclude that PCBs are not known to migrate readily to groundwater due to the tendency for PCBs to strongly adsorb to soil particles and to their low water solubility. PCBs do not migrate significantly to groundwater except under extreme conditions and, for the same reasons, they do not significantly migrate if in groundwater.” They cited three outdated government documents, none of which are scientific studies. They concluded that “The groundwater data collected to date at the MKC site, suggest that there is neither widespread, nor migrating PCB contamination in groundwater.”

(Shallow groundwater under the highly PCB contaminated ditch and raingarden has never been tested for PCBs despite citizens repeatedly asking that it be done, especially since the water table there is often just a few feet down.)

December 2016-March 2017: Further testing following up from the PCB findings in the raingarden found PCBs at levels up to 120 ppm in storm drains that travel under the factory and discharge at the raingarden and in city storm drains. A report summarizing the Oct 2016 through March 2017 results was shared with a small group of interested citizens.

April 13, 2017: Tony Koblinski told Steve Verburg at the Wisconsin State Journal that the PCBs found recently in the raingarden and drainage system “have set back efforts to resolve a state Department of Justice lawsuit that was filed in 2012,” but that he “expects soon to have a plan for cleaning the drainage system and the bike path area.” Koblinski says he had expected the lawsuit to be settled later last year, but the discovery of additional PCBs near the bike path and in the drain pipe have created delays.” Further, Koblinski said, “the company has complied with DNR instructions on soil cleanup since the mid-1990…”

Could the recent PCB findings actually help Kipp???

Kipp may very well have “complied with DNR instructions” since the 1990s, as Koblinski told the Wisconsin State Journal, but the DNR didn’t actually ask Kipp to follow relevant regulations on VOCs and PCBs until after the RCRA lawsuit was filed—and until after the SOW process/DOJ lawsuit negotiations allowed them to be off the hook for any regulatory violations. How fabulous for Kipp! And no worries about the recent findings of high levels of PCBs in the storm drainage system under Kipp—the company will be protected by the DOJ lawsuit, which will now drag on even longer. Also, as long as the lawsuit is still open, many records that would otherwise be public—about Kipp’s pollution and how it is being addressed—are not available to citizens because of “attorney-client privilege.”

While this lawsuit drags on and on, PCBs are repeatedly dug up next to a public bike path where people, including many children, walk and play every day.

Is our regulatory system working to protect public and environmental health? Clearly, NO. Is it protecting polluters? Clearly, YES.

[1] The SOW team included DNR staff (Schmoller, Hanefeld, Geisfeldt, Pierce), DHS (Nehls-Lowe, Jessica Maloney),  Kipp’s human resource manager (Mark Meunier) and two attorneys from Kipp’s law firm Michael Best and Friedrich (David Crass, Leah Ziemba).


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Kipp PCBs continue to pollute area along Isthmus bike path, even after multiple remediations

Kipp PCBs continue to pollute area along Isthmus bike path, even after multiple remediations

The company expects to find a solution soon, but critics say government regulators have failed to properly investigate the troubled industrial site. More…

(A diagram of PCB levels found along Kipp’s storm drainage pipe is below. See the full PCB report by Kipp’s consultants here.)


High PCB levels

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DNR becoming “Chamber of Commerce” instead of regulator?

DNR becoming “Chamber of Commerce” instead of regulator?

Photo: Cathy Stepp, head of WI DNR (aka Chamber of Commerce?)

When Scott Walker appointed Cathy Stepp in 2011 to head the Wisconsin DNR, he said he wanted someone with “a-chamber-of-commerce mentality” to run the agency, according to Steve Verburg’s April 9, 2017 article, “DNR points to informal deals as pollution penalties drop” in the Wisconsin State Journal. Read the article to learn about how Cathy Stepp’s appointment has shaped the way the agency addresses pollution and polluters.



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Wisconsin DNR not following its own rules

Wisconsin DNR not following its own rules

This really isn’t a surprise but it’s still very disturbing.



State audit finds DNR ignoring own rules on water pollution

Wisconsin’s water quality regulators failed to follow their own policies on enforcement against polluters more than 94 percent of the time over the last decade, the state’s nonpartisan Legislative Audit Bureau said in a report released Friday [MORE]

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Madison-Kipp removes chlorine, but environmental worries linger

Madison-Kipp removes chlorine, but environmental worries linger

By Steve Verburg, Wisconsin State Journal. (Photo: Inside Madison-Kipp)

Madison-Kipp Corp. has removed one worrisome toxin from the manufacturing plant it operates amid scores of homes along Atwood Avenue, but neighbors say they want more answers about other pollutants.

The machine parts maker sent an email to neighborhood residents last week to say it has stopped using chlorine to treat aluminum, eliminating the danger of a spill of the potentially deadly substance and ending smokestack emissions of certain dangerous breakdown chemicals including dioxin.

“We’re pretty excited about it,” company environmental and safety director Alina Satkoski said Wednesday. “We know this has been a concern of our neighbors.”

Madison-Kipp continues to operate under state permits for emissions of other smokestack pollutants, and cleanups of toxins in soil aren’t complete, although company officials say they are getting closer.

Chlorine was used to remove magnesium from 35 million pounds of aluminum the company buys each year and casts into parts for the automotive and other industries.

Madison-Kipp is paying a higher price to buy aluminum with less magnesium content in order to be a better neighbor, and it will continue the practice as long as a steady supply of the material is available, said company president and CEO Tony Koblinski.

“It’s hundreds of thousands of dollars annually,” Koblinski said. “As long as there is a steady stream we don’t give up too much.”

The chlorine announcement came as Madison-Kipp continued to work with state and federal regulators on investigations and cleanups of chemical toxins released into the ground during the more than 100 years the company’s Waubesa Street plant has operated.

Madison-Kipp is also the target of a 2012 state Department of Justice lawsuit over PCBs, which the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency says probably cause cancer in humans and a variety of other serious health effects in animals. PCBs have been found in very high concentrations as deep as 25 to 30 feet below the company’s plant on Waubesa Street, one of three it operates in Dane County.

The company paid $7.2 million to settle lawsuits brought by neighbors after PCE, a likely human carcinogen that is associated with other serious illnesses, and other contaminants spread from the plant and sent vapor into their soil and homes.

But Koblinski has predicted a settlement with DOJ this year, and he said great progress is being made on several fronts.

The company has asked the state Department of Natural Resources for permission to end testing and removal of soil tainted with PCE in the yards of homes along Waubesa Street and soil contaminated with PCBs under the plant parking lot, along the adjacent bike path and in a nearby public rain garden, he said.

The company complied with a 2015 EPA consent order that threatened a $37,500-per-day fine if it didn’t fix processes that led to inaccurate reports of air emissions for nearly five years, Satkoski said. And the company has taken steps to avoid a repeat of a 2014 incident when moisture in a machine caused a 20-pound piece of molten aluminum to crash through the plant roof and land in a neighbor’s yard, Satkoski said.

Koblinski said he is willing to answer any neighborhood questions. But residents and local officials said they have trouble obtaining information from the DNR.

In particular, there are concerns about efforts to halt the underground PCE plume by pumping it from the ground, treating it and depositing 65,000 gallons a day into Starkweather Creek, a stream that is already listed as impaired by pollutants, said one neighborhood leader, Lance Green.

Confidence in regulators was shaken several years ago by revelations that PCE was in people’s homes and more recently when the Madison Water Utility revealed problems in Madison-Kipp studies indicating the PCE plume had stopped well short of a nearby drinking water source, said Green, who serves on the Schenk-Atwood-Starkweather-Yahara Neighborhood Association board and the group’s committee on Madison-Kipp as well as the Friends of Starkweather Creek board.

Madison City Council member Marsha Rummel and state Rep. Chris Taylor, D-Madison, tried to arrange a public meeting this week with DNR regulators, public health officials and others to answer residents’ questions about the activities.

However, Taylor and Green said DNR staff members told them they were wary because of verbal sparring at such a meeting in 2012.

Taylor said attorneys representing neighbors in the PCE lawsuit, which was still pending at the time, asked questions and that heightened tensions.

Taylor said she offered to screen questions and provide them to the DNR in advance, and Rummel arranged for a professional facilitator to run the meeting.

But the DNR declined, and said it would discuss dates for an “open house” meeting in which residents could talk with officials at individual tables set up for different topics, Taylor said. But that prevents the most knowledgeable neighbors from obtaining answers that everyone can hear, Taylor said.

“They don’t want to face the community in a group,” Taylor said. “I think it’s ridiculous.”

DNR spokesman Jim Dick said the meeting was postponed by its organizers and the agency is waiting to hear further details about how and when it may take place.

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Madison-Kipp’s pollution cleanup is nowhere near complete: Part I–Groundwater

Madison-Kipp’s pollution cleanup is nowhere near complete: Part I–Groundwater

Photo: Toxic permanganate discharge from Kipp groundwater extraction and treatment system (GETS) on Aug. 9, 2015


On December 20 2015 the Wisconsin State Journal published a front page article  by Steven Verburg about the ongoing Kipp pollution tragedy.  “Madison-Kipp Corp” the article stated, “says the company may be nearing the end of a multi-pronged cleanup of hazardous chemicals that began spreading from the factory decades ago…”

Sadly, the highly toxic and persistent chemicals released from Madison-Kipp for over 100 years will never be fully “cleaned up.” People on the eastside of Madison and beyond will be living with remnants of Kipp’s pollution for generations to come.

The WSJ article provides a good overview of some of the factory’s pollution issues that remain unresolved—and there are many more. Meanwhile, though the company may have stopped using PCBs and PCE, it continues to use and emit numerous toxic chemicals. What are they? Where are they emitted, and in what quantities? What did they replace PCBs with in lubricants for their machinery? Based on the horrible sickly odor of Kipp’s die cast emissions in the neighborhood, they are not lubricating their die cast machines with lavender oils…

Below, we elaborate on some of the statements in the article.WSJ statements are in bold, followed by our response.

WSJ: “The PCE contamination got outside the plant when it condensed in a ventilation system”

 MEJO: This is not even close to the whole story on how PCE “got outside the plant” and makes it sound like the contamination is limited to a small area of the site. The September 8, 2012 lawsuit deposition of Jim Lenz, an engineer at Kipp from 1980 to 2011, described how Kipp workers frequently dumped PCE on the ground on the Kipp site over many years: “Back before the parking lot was paved they would just throw buckets of spent PCE out the parking lot to get rid of it,” Lenz said. Lenz also said that during refilling of the PCE storage tank, and dispensing PCE into buckets from tanks, PCE commonly spilled onto the ground, and leaks occurred. “Back then there were spills all the time and nobody worried about it,” he said. He mentioned various drains that captured PCE and other process wastes that drained onto grassy areas around the pant (such as the area that became the raingarden)—or went to storm or sanitary sewers (Lenz Deposition, pp. 46-69).

PCE is a “dense non-aqueous phase liquid” (DNAPL). DNAPLs are very heavy—heavier than water. When PCE was spilled or dumped on the ground at Kipp, it infiltrated down quickly to the groundwater. Scientific research shows that DNAPL chemicals can travel from the surface to deep groundwater aquifers in a matter of days through underground fractures that act like contaminant “superhighways”

Further, it is well documented that storm and sanitary sewers get old and develop cracks—and chemicals in them can make it to groundwater after leaking through cracks. So some of the PCE and other VOCs leaked through old storm and sanitary drains leading out from Kipp in all directions, and eventually made it down into groundwater along these routes.

Storm sewers also drained PCE, PCBs, metals and other toxic chemicals to Starkweather Creek and Lake Monona for decades. As we described in detail in a past article, Kipp documents in the 1990s clearly discussed and depicted a ditch at the northern tip of Kipp that collected PCE, PCB and other toxic wastes and drained them into the storm sewer going off to the northeastern corner of the site, eventually going into the city storm sewer that goes to Starkweather Creek about one-third of a mile away.

Dr. Lorne Everett, an expert in the citizen RCRA lawsuit, wrote in his December 2012 report on Kipp: “Madison-Kipp has been releasing toxic chemicals for decades and (considering the contaminant transport mechanisms associated with this site) the migration of chemicals…would have begun shortly after commencement of the releases. For example, contaminants spread by wind-blown transport and run-off would have migrated offsite as soon after the commencement of dumping as the first major rainstorm or windy day. Soil vapor migration from VOC-contaminated onsite soil would have reached the immediately adjacent homes in a matter of weeks or months. Considering an approximate shallow groundwater flow velocity of 40 of feet per year,[i] contaminated groundwater would have extended offsite within (at most) a year or two of first becoming impacted.” (Dec. 3 2012 Everett report, p. 6-7). Kipp started using PCE some time in the 1940s. Given the above, it is not surprising how far the VOC groundwater plume extends beyond Kipp (and the furthest edges of the plume haven’t even been defined).

After seeing the Kipp PCB data released in early 2013, Dr. Everett called Kipp “one of the most contaminated sites I’ve ever worked with” in his Feb. 2013 deposition (see p. 5 of pdf, p. 22 of deposition). PCBs are far more toxic than PCE, and are contaminated with dioxins and furans, some of the most toxic chemicals ever studied by scientists.

Since 2013, Kipp has had to clean up high levels of PCBs along the bike path and in the raingarden several times—see here and here for more details. Another PCB excavation is planned along the bike path this week (January 2016). Extraordinarily high levels of PCBs remain under the factory, and how these PCBs will be cleaned up over the long term is unknown (we will discuss the Kipp PCB situation further in a future article)

In other words, after decades of spilling, dumping, leaking, draining, and spreading via stormwater and air, this toxic pollution is now widespread around the Kipp site and beyond in soils, groundwater, surface water, and sediments at the bottom of Starkweather Creek and Lake Monona. Over decades, some of this toxic contamination certainly made its way to fish in these waterways, and into the bodies of wildlife and people who ate this fish. Sadly, most of this contamination cannot be cleaned up at this point. It’s too late.

 WSJ: “The company…has been extracting contaminated groundwater, treating it and depositing 65,000 gallons a day in Starkweather Creek…”

MEJO: Yes, the company has been extracting contaminated groundwater and discharging thousands of gallons of it a day into Starkweather Creek. What levels of contaminants are in this discharge? What ecological effects will the discharges have on Starkweather Creek? On groundwater? On Well 8, at Olbrich Park and/or Well 11, near Woodmans–which supply drinking water to the east side? Is one groundwater extraction and treatment system the best strategy? How effective will it be? What alternatives were considered? How was the decision made to use this strategy, and who was involved in making it?

After citizens learned about the permitted discharges to Starkweather Creek in January 2015 (after DNR and city permits were already issued), and raised questions about it on the SASYNA listserve, PHMDC’s John Hausbeck privately told city officials that even though the Madison Metropolitan Sewerage District was originally going to take the GETS discharge, it eventually decided it didn’t want to take the GETS discharge into the sanitary system because it was too “clean.” He assured Alder Rummel and his colleagues that citizens’ “alarm” about contaminants going to the creek and lake was unfounded, and he was confident that this would not happen. “I believe this system will work and I think we have the monitoring in place to make sure it works going forward,” he told them.

We subsequently obtained and reviewed GETS documents to find details on how “clean” the discharge would be and what kind of monitoring would be done. Below is some of what we learned via a long and convoluted process of obtaining relevant documents (DNR told citizens they would need to submit open records requests for documents, though they eventually placed some of them on the BRRTS site).

What’s in discharges from Kipp’s groundwater extraction and treatment system (GETS)? How are they monitored?

Caveat to the below discussion: If any of the below regulatory standards or calculations are incorrect—our apologies. We asked DNR twice to explain the permits and discharge limits to us, but they have not responded so we are sorting through the very complex and confusing permit and regulatory maze on our own. We welcome corrections!

The groundwater extraction and treatment system (GETS) in the northern Kipp parking lot removes some—but not all—of the VOCs from the groundwater before it is discharged to Starkweather Creek. The discharges are mainly regulated by a DNR permit, but a separate City of Madison discharge permit covers monitoring of a different set of contaminants in the discharge (see below).

The DNR permit for the GETS discharge, issued in January 2015 states: “The discharge limits are set to protect both surface water and groundwater quality since the discharge is to surface water that may have seepage to groundwater. The most restrictive limits will apply” and “Limits based on groundwater quality protection are set at the preventive action limits in ch. NR 140, Wis. Adm. Code.”  It also states ”[n]othing in this permit allows the permittee to discharge any substance in a concentration that would cause groundwater standards in Ch. NR 140 to be exceeded.”

This sounds really protective. However, the GETS permit doesn’t actually have to adhere to NR 140 limits. Why does it say this on the permit? We don’t know. The DNR developed a general permit for stormwater discharges from remedial systems for contaminated groundwater that allows levels of PCE, TCE, and many other toxic volatile organic compounds (VOCs) at levels hundreds of times higher than the NR 140 Preventive Action Limits (on which other stormwater permit VOC effluent limitations are based—see pg. 11 of general permit above). For example, the following average monthly concentrations of tetrachoroethylene (PCE), trichloroethylene (TCE), and vinyl chloride (VC) are allowed in the GETS discharge:

NR 140 PAL Limit DNR GETs

permit limit

How much higher than NR 140 limits?
Tetrachloroethyene (PCE) 0.5 ug/L 50 ug/L 100 times
Trichloroethylene (TCE) 0.5 ug/L 50 ug/L 100 times
Vinyl chloride (VC) 0.02 ug/L 10 ug/L 500 times

For unknown reasons, there are no discharge limits listed in the GETS permit for cis and trans 1, 2 dichloroethylene (DCE). The NR 140 PAL for cis DCE is 7 ug/l and for trans DCE is 20 ug/L. DCE compounds are common breakdown products of PCE. Why would the DNR not include any discharge limits for these chemicals in Kipp’s permit?

To be clear, the above table doesn’t mean the GETS is discharging these concentrations of toxic chemicals; it means that the DNR decided that discharging these concentrations of toxic chemicals would be OK for Starkweather Creek and Well 8. On what basis?

To date, as far as we know,  July 2015 GETS discharges of PCE and TCE went over the allowed limits, but reported GETS discharges for subsequent months were lower than these maximum allowed levels. Regardless, though lower than these very high allowed levels, the actual measured discharge concentrations of PCE, TCE, and DCE have still been far over the NR 140 standards (see table below). What effects will these discharges of toxic VOCs have on Starkweather Creek and Well 8 over the long term?

Actual reported GETS discharge concentrations of PCE, TCE, DCE from July-November 2015

July 15 Aug 15 Sept 15 Oct 15 Nov 15
PCE 85.2* 44 48 23 32
TCE 19.3* 8 8.9 2.9 4.7
Cis DCE 73.5 30.7 33 9.8 15

All numbers are in µg/L

July and August concentrations are average of several measurements, the rest are one-time “grab” samples (see discussion below)

* Highest PCE effluent level in July was 270, highest TCE in effluent was 52, highest cis DCE level was 150

No flow limits in DNR permit?

 Oddly, there is also no limit in the permit for the amount of water discharged (called “flow” in the permit). This is extremely problematic since the concentration of each chemical (e.g., ug/L) is only one part of determining how much is discharged into waterways—the number of liters (L) discharged per day, month, etc., also determines this.

The GETS “design value” for flow is 64,800 gallons a day. If GETS actually discharges the monthly average concentration the permit allows for vinyl chloride (10 ug/L) and the flow level is actually 64,800 gallons a day, we can do some basic calculations to figure out how much vinyl chloride would be discharged in this scenario: 64,800 gallons/day = 1,971,000 gal/month X 12 = 23,652,000 gals/year; there are 3.78544 liters per gal, so 23,652,000 X 3.78544 = 89,533,226.88 liters that can be discharged per year. If each liter has 10 ug/L of vinyl chloride, then 89,533,226.88 X 10 = 895,332,268.8 ug of vinyl chloride would be discharged per year. If the amount of flow from the GETS doubled, then double this amount of vinyl chloride would be discharged, and so forth.

So having an actual flow limit in the permit matters a lot—without it there is essentially no real limit to the amount of toxins that can be discharged into watersheds. Industries know this, and fought back hard (including threatening to sue the agency) when EPA recommended imposing numeric flow-based limits in discharge permits in 2010. EPA eventually backed down, so flow-based limits are not in permits.

Moreover, Kipp is not required to actually monitor the flow, but is required to report to DNR if the flow is “anticipated to increase above 70 gallons per minute,” or above 100,800 gallons a day. Would Kipp actually do this? It sounds voluntary.

How much total VOC and other contaminants are allowed to be discharged by the DNR permit?

 Several toxic VOCs are discharged from the GETS. There is no “total VOC” limit listed on the permit, but adding all the VOC limits listed in the permit together (see actual permit for details, link above), a monthly average of up to 1240 ug/L VOC is allowed. Based on this limit and assuming discharge levels of 64,800 gal/day, over 9 million micrograms, or 245.5 pounds of toxic chlorinated compounds and other VOCs per year would be allowed to go into Starkweather Creek by the permit.[ii] This number doesn’t include cis and trans DCE (again, no limits listed), and other unmeasured VOCs that are likely discharged from the GETs. Therefore, the total allowed amount of contaminants discharged into Starkweather is unknown.

The GETS also discharges high levels of sodium and chloride (produced when sodium permanganate reacts with PCE and other compounds). The city, not state, permit covers sodium (see below).

The GETS permit allows 395 mg/L of chloride to be discharged (this is the DNR’s surface water effluent limit; the groundwater preventive action limit is 125 and the enforcement standard is 250 mg/L). Based on the 64,800 gallons a day flow rate, the permit allows 39 tons of chloride to be discharged into Starkweather Creek per year from the GETS.If the flow from the GETS increases, this level would be higher.

Starkweather Creek is listed by DNR as impaired for chloride, in addition to “unspecified metals” and other contaminants. Many Madison drinking water wells are challenged by rising sodium and/or chloride levels, which can infiltrate from surface water to groundwater. Given this—why would DNR and the City allow such a high permit limit for chloride discharged into Starkweather?

The DNR GETS permit doesn’t include any quantitative limits for sodium permanganate, and requires only visual monitoring by Kipp (hopefully this is more than…“looks OK to me!”). Sodium permanganate is in the extracted groundwater as a result of past In-Situ Chemical Oxidation (ISCO) treatments, which injected thousands of gallons of permanganate into the groundwater. The Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS) for sodium permanganate says that it is “very toxic to aquatic life with long lasting effects” and “a long term hazard to the aquatic environment” and advises to “avoid release to the aquatic environment.”

The permanganate is supposed to be “neutralized” by Kipp staff with hydrogen peroxide before it is discharged (this reaction produces sodium hydroxide, manganese oxide, as well as water and oxygen). On August 9, 2015, Kipp apparently ran out of hydrogen peroxide and the GETS released non-neutralized permanganate , which is a bright magenta color, into a ditch that eventually drains into Starkweather Creek.

This purportedly brief (according to Kipp) permanganate release was enough to cause a fish kill in Starkweather Creek. This is not surprising since permanganate is “very toxic to aquatic life.” Given this, why would the DNR not include a limit for permanganate in their permit, and not require ongoing chemical monitoring for it, rather than just visual monitoring?

The city GETS discharge permit covers manganese, other metals, sodium

 For some reason (that we don’t understand), metals, sodium, and various other discharge contaminants are covered under the city stormwater permit, not the DNR permit. See the list of contaminants covered under the city permit here. The city discharge permit requires discharge monitoring only once a year. Discharge limits are not listed on the city permit. According to Madison General Ordinance 7.47, these discharges should meet the requirements of DNR code NR 105 and 106 (for surface waters), but these codes are complex and it isn’t clear what limits pertain to the city permit. Some of the contaminants monitored by the city are not listed on NR 105 or 106.

For sodium, the July city monitoring showed GETS discharge levels of 114 mg/L (ppm)(NR 140 doesn’t list sodium; the EPA’s National Secondary Drinking Water Standard for sodium is 2 ppm).

Manganese is also covered under the city, not the state permit. Manganese is produced by ISCO treatments (from the permanganate, which is a manganese compound) and when the permanganate is oxidized by hydrogen peroxide before the GETS discharge. Not surprisingly, manganese has been found in extremely high levels in the groundwater under Kipp (up to hundreds of thousands of µg/L; see ISCO report linked to above).

It isn’t clear what the manganese discharge limits are in the city permit (if any). The first city monitoring of the discharge in July (see above) after the system first went into operation found 549 ug/L manganese.[iv] We couldn’t find surface water standards for manganese (there may not be any). The NR 140 groundwater preventive action level for manganese is 60 ug/L, and the enforcement standard is 300 ug/L. The EPA’s National Secondary Drinking Water Standard for Manganese is 50 ug/L .

Well 8 at Olbrich Park, which supplies water in the summer for the Kipp neighborhood, has higher levels of manganese than any other well in Madison. Though historically regulated as an aesthetic contaminant, a growing body of research suggests that manganese is a neurotoxin and the EPA is considering regulating it as such—which will likely mean lower drinking water limits. Given this, why would the city permit not include a specific effluent limit for manganese, and require ongoing monitoring for it in the GETS discharge? On what basis was this decision made, and by whom?

Do city and state permit monitoring approaches protect Starkweather Creek and Well 8?

As we discussed above, PHMDC’s Mr. Hausbeck told his colleagues in January 2015 that he believes the GETS system and the monitoring approach required in the permits will work well, and citizens should not be “alarmed” about toxic releases to Starkweather Creek. Given the fact that in August there was a significant permanganate release that caused a fish kill, and authorities were only notified about this by citizens after the fact, perhaps the monitoring approach isn’t working so well? Perhaps citizens’ questions and concerns about toxic contaminants getting into Starkweather Creek (which they obviously already have!) are legitimate?

The city permit requires Kipp to immediately notify them of a release such as the one that happened in August, and they didn’t. The city later referred this violation to the city attorney, but it isn’t clear whether or how they followed up on this, if at all.

Also, oddly, the DNR permit limits are based on monthly averages, but after the first six weeks the discharge is only monitored once a month. How does a once a month “grab” test of contaminants reflect a monthly average?  Daily contaminant levels in the discharge could go much higher than the permit limits, but as long as the monthly test shows levels lower than the limits, nobody will ever know. Who decides when to do the once monthly test? Kipp.

Visual permanganate monitoring photos apparently don’t have to be submitted after the first two discharge reports (since the reports after August don’t include them). How do we know Kipp is doing the required visual monitoring? If there is another release of non-neutralized permanganate, and Kipp doesn’t do the right thing and report it (should we trust them after what already happened?), will anyone know now that the discharge is going into a covered storm sewer pipe? (Citizens walking on the bike path saw the problematic GETS discharge in August because it was hard to miss magenta-colored water flowing across the pavement next to the path. At that time it was being discharged there because the city was working on the sewer drains they are discharging into now).

Also, GETS monitoring discharge reports aren’t submitted to the DNR until the middle of the following month. When PCE and TCE levels did go above the limits in July 2015 (see above), DNR wasn’t notified till August. The PCE and TCE already went into Starkweather Creek.

Also, as discussed above, the city monitoring for important compounds such as manganese, sodium, other metals, etc, is only done once a year. If there are spikes of these contaminants in the GETS discharge, nobody will know until months later, perhaps up to a year later.

How do sporadic, infrequent monitoring approaches and delayed reporting  proactively protect Starkweather Creek from high discharges of toxic contaminants? How do they protect Well 8?

Decisions Made Behind Closed Doors; No Public Input or Engagement…

 We are not against the ISCO or the GETS per se; we understand that they are intended to remediate the highly contaminated groundwater, and we support that goal. Our point in raising the issues above is that we don’t understand the basis on which the DNR and city officials decided to allow such high levels of contaminants to be discharged into already highly impaired waters, near an already contaminated drinking water well. We don’t understand the basis for the monitoring approaches, and why some contaminants are covered under a state permit and others under a city permit.

Unfortunately, all of the decisions about the GETS discharge were made behind closed doors—with no public meetings, no public engagement, no opportunity for public input or questions. How were these limits—or lack thereof— determined? By whom, and when? What alternatives were considered for how to treat the groundwater contamination, and where to discharge it? What impact will the discharge of contaminants have on Starkweather Creek, Lake Monona, and Well 8 during the many years the GETs will be in operation? Will anyone be monitoring for environmental impacts in these waterways? We don’t know. We doubt it.

We have asked DNR wastewater officials twice to provide documentation about how the GETS discharge limits were developed, and why certain contaminants are covered under a separate city permit, and have received no responses.

We have asked the DNR and the city repeatedly for public meetings to discuss these and other questions we have about Kipp pollution. They have refused.

WSJ: Discussing the GETS system, “Koblinski said the effort was aimed at pulling the edges of the contaminated plume back toward the plant.”

 MEJO: This is likely a futile aim. A single groundwater extraction system on the Kipp site is not capable of “pulling the edges of the contaminated plume back toward the plant.” As this map shows (these numbers are old, but current levels at these wells aren’t much different) and as we wrote about in a previous article, the giant underground plume extends to north of Milwaukee Street, hundreds of feet to the east and west of Kipp, and likely to Lake Monona to the south (though no monitoring wells have ever been placed directly to the south of Kipp). The plume extends much further than these monitoring points, given the high levels found at them. In other words, the edges of the plume have not even been determined. We think that the City should demand that the plume be fully mapped; after all, people have been living over this plume for decades and deserve to know.

Further, several experts have questioned how effective the GETS system is likely to be. Dr. Jessie Meyer, an independent expert hired by the Water Utility noted in her January 2015 report (the date on the first page is incorrect) that “The range of hydraulic conductivities suggests the extraction well may draw water from specific intervals preferentially.”  In other words, it might pull water more from some depths than from others. She specifically questioned the assertion that the GETS would affect the leading edges of the plume—in fact, suggesting that it may not affect the edges of the plume at all: Although the source zone extraction well should hydraulically contain the high concentration source, it’s important to consider that it may not have any influence on plume front mobility as illustrated by Parker et al. (2010).” (italics added)

Ironically, in a January 21, 2013 Arcadis report, Kipp’s own expert stated that groundwater extraction and treatment (GWET–this is the same as GETS) was “widely criticized as inefficient and too expensive as a groundwater remediation technology” and was eliminated by Kipp as a remedial option “due to lack of effectiveness.” He wrote that GWET “may require many decades to achieve significant improvement in groundwater quality…” and based on this, “WDNR has indicated that it does not expect groundwater pumping to be an option for remediation at this site.” He advised that ISCO would be much more effective, and was “proven to be effective in remediating VOCs in groundwater to remedial goals at sites, such as the Madison-Kipp site, within a short period of time of one to two years.” (p. 13-14) Obviously, Kipp and DNR changed their minds later—perhaps when they realized that the ISCO wasn’t significantly lowering VOC levels in groundwater [v] and was also pumping the groundwater full of highly toxic permanganate (and manganese)—which is now being discharged into Starkweather Creek.

A city scientist asked by Mayor Soglin to evaluate the groundwater remediation options wrote in April 2013 that: “Pump and treat seems difficult and costly and may capture an aqueous plume but not remove vapors, DNAPLs or sorbed contaminants. Large volumes of pumped water from many extraction wells would still have to be treated (by air stripping, activated carbon, oxidation). CVOCs may not be amenable to treatment with solidification / stabilization.”

The citizens’ expert in the RCRA lawsuit, Dr. Lorne Everett, advised in his Dec. 2012 report that ISCO and groundwater extraction should be part of the remedial strategy for containing the plume, but that one ISCO injection point and one extraction well would not be enough to remediate or even contain Kipp’s giant plume. He also argued that no remedial strategy be very effective if the plume is not adequately characterized (which it has never been) and especially if pools of DNAPL (dense non-aqueous phase liquids) are not located and addressed. See pg. 1-2 of Dr. Everett’s April 30, 2013 memo for more explanation of this important issue.

To date, defying science and abundant evidence from the Kipp site, Kipp and DNR have adamantly denied that there is any DNAPL at the site. So they have never tried to characterize DNAPL—they avoid mentioning it. Why? Because they know that DNAPL sites are incredibly difficult to clean up and if they admit DNAPL is likely there, they will have to address how they are going to identify and remediate it.

 WSJ: “But a consultant hired by the Madison Water Utility has questioned the company’s contention that contamination was no longer spreading…”

MEJO: The consultant hired by the Water Utility, Dr. Jessie Meyer, did indeed question this contention in her report. She strongly critiqued nearly every aspect of the Kipp consultant’s report on the groundwater plume. Some of her key critiques: an inadequate conceptual model; highly flawed quantitative and qualitative analyses; over-simplified modeling; using inappropriate data in model; underestimating PCE source concentration; not recognizing DNAPL; using inappropriate parameters in modeling; and more. These significant methodological deficiencies allowed Kipp’s consultant to underestimate the mobility of the plume and, based on this, argue that it would never reach Well 8. Were these serious methodological problems purposeful, or just due to incompetence of Kipp’s consultants? Or, did Kipp’s law firm, Michael Best & Friedrich, tell Kipp’s consultants (who work for the law firm) what they wanted the analysis to conclude (so they “adjusted” their model parameters to make it work out that way)?

Notably, Dr. Meyer agreed with Dr. Everett that PCE at the Kipp site likely entered the bedrock as a DNAPL, and that this should have been considered in their model (but wasn’t). Relatedly, she highlighted the importance of assessing fracture networks because they can provide pathways for contamination to migrate quickly away from the site: “It is important to recognize that high angle fractures exist in these bedrock units… providing important connectivity and vertical flow and contaminant migration pathways.”

She questioned Kipp’s use of a PCE source amount that was less than the amount Kipp likely used (based on available data) and a date for PCE release in the model that was much later than when PCE was known to be first released at the site. This choice of model parameters underestimated how far the plume may have migrated in many decades “…because largest transport distances occur in fractures during early years and decades when source concentrations are also very high.” In other words, Kipp’s consultant conveniently left these early years of PCE release, and likely high source concentrations of PCE, out of their model.

Dr. Meyer also stated that the Olbrich Well 8 test hole[vi]: “…can potentially serve as a pathway for contaminants to flow from the upper bedrock units into the Mt. Simon formation” (the deep aquifer). She recommended that the test hole be plugged to prevent such migration. The Water Utility has known about the Well 8 test hole for years.[vii] What are they going to do about it? Why is nobody discussing this publicly?

WSJ: “The utility hired a second consultant who is studying how monitoring wells could be placed in the path of the plume to gain more knowledge of its future flow, Grande said.”

MEJO: Hopefully this “second consultant” was not hired by the Water Utility to design his studies to assure the public that there is no risk to Well 8 in order to deflect public outcry when the Water Utility begins to use the well full time (which they are clearly determined to do despite the neighborhood association’s call not to use it and to focus on conservation instead).

The Water Utility already has a pretty good idea about potential Kipp plume pathways. Modeling by the Wisconsin Geological and Natural History Survey (WGNHS) in the last several years has elucidated various scenarios of where the plume would go under different Water Utility well pumping schemes. The Water Utility and WNHGS scientists have been analyzing these models for years, which show that the Kipp plume would likely have been pulled to the south/southwest with Well 8 not pumping or pumping part time, and Well 17 and 24 (both on the Isthmus east of the capitol) pumping full time—a common scenario for many years, since Well 8 has been used only in the summer.

The Water Utility, which receives ongoing advice from WGNHS scientists, knows this. This is one reason they originally planned the sentinel well in Elmside Circle Park, directly south of Kipp. So why wasn’t it ever placed there? Why have no other groundwater monitoring wells ever been placed to the south or southwest of Kipp? The DNR planned to place wells to the south of Kipp in the 1990s, but these wells never happened. Or did they? Perhaps Kipp and the agencies really do not want to know–or rather, do not want the public to know—about the extent of Kipp’s plume to the south/southwest, underneath homes in the Atwood neighborhood and toward Lake Monona?

 WSJ: Joe Grande: “Very small amounts of chemicals that PCE breaks down into have been detected at the well, but indications are they came from other area businesses.” 

MEJO: If there really are other businesses near Well 8 that have created big enough VOC plumes to reach Well 8: What are these businesses? Are these sources identified in the Well 8 Wellhead Protection Plan? Are there public documents about these plumes? Shouldn’t these big VOC plumes be investigated? What is being done to address these plumes?

 Kipp tried to claim there were other businesses responsible for the PCE breakdown product in Well 8 during the lawsuit and they couldn’t defend this claim with evidence. So what evidence does the Water Utility have that Kipp couldn’t find?

The Water Utility knows very well that the most likely other source of the PCE breakdown product in Well 8 other than Madison Kipp is the city-owned former Olbrich Landfill, under the baseball fields at Olbrich Park.

The Olbrich landfill was a non-licensed, non-engineered “open burn” landfill with no liner that operated between 1933 and 1950 and accepted residential waste, demolition waste, burned waste, foundry sand and other materials likely to be hazardous. It’s quite possible that Madison-Kipp, Kupfer Ironworks, and Brassworks (both now owned by Goodman Community Center) sent some toxic waste and metal scrap to this landfill during this period.

In 1995 when groundwater beneath the landfill was tested before building restrooms and a parking lot at Olbrich (over the landfill), several contaminants were found over the Preventive Action Levels (PALs) —e.g.: 3300 ug/L iron (PAL 150), 500 ug/L manganese (PAL 25), 18 ug/L cis 1, 2 dichloroethyelene (PAL 7 ug/L), 21 ug/L trans 1, 2 dichloroethylene (PAL 20 ug/L), 5 ug/L trichloroethylene (PAL 0.5 ug/L). All the wells were shallow— 17-18 feet deep, at the water table. If they had tested deeper down, they would have likely found higher levels.

By 1995, the Water Utility had already found low levels of cis 1,2 dichloroethylene and high levels of iron and manganese in Well 8. Could they have been related to the landfill? Or Kipp? Or both? From 1945-1999 (?), Well 8 was pumping full time, which would have pulled the Kipp and the Olbrich landfill plumes toward it.

In 2000 and 2001, groundwater was tested again at the landfill because the city was expanding Olbrich gardens and building a pedestrian bridge. Tests found up to 1270 ug/L iron, 564 ug/ manganese, 1.9 ug/L cis 1, 2 dichloroethylene and 2.4 ug/L trans 1,2 dichloroethylene. VOCs were tested once at just one shallow well. Other VOCs were likely there, but not detected because the detection limits were high. Also, again, if they had tested deeper they likely would have found higher levels.

Even with very limited shallow groundwater data to date (some indicating significant contaminant levels) and a drinking water well very nearby, with the DNR’s approval, the city didn’t do any more groundwater testing of VOCs after this.

 In 2003-2004, three wells at the landfill were tested. Iron and manganese, along with arsenic, chloride, lead, nitrate/nitrite, and sulfate were found at levels above the PALs. Iron and manganese were found in all samples were above the PALs and most were also above enforcement standards.

In 2005, then lead City Engineer Larry Nelson (who later became interim director of the Water Utility and then served on the Water Utility Board), wrote to the DNR requesting “a finding of no further investigation and remediation” for the landfill. He dismissed the findings of high levels of iron and manganese as not of concern: “Both of these metals are considered aesthetic parameters and the concentrations identified here are not considered health hazards.” (Actually, as discussed earlier, a growing body of scientific research shows that manganese is a neurotoxin and the EPA is currently considering setting health-based standards for it in drinking water)

Mr. Nelson’s letter concluded that: “In terms of the upper aquifer, it appears that the location of this public drinking water well is not downgradient of the landfill and therefore less likely to be impacted by migrating contaminants…there is little reason for concern.” He admitted that “[i]t is evident from the analytical data that the landfill is a source for some of the groundwater contamination which exists in this area (e.g., iron and manganese concentrations).” Oddly, even though Well 8 was known to have high levels of manganese and iron at that time, with little evidence to support this, he argued that “[n]o significant contaminants are entering the local groundwater system” and “[t]here is no apparent impact on the nearby municipal well (UW #8).”

At the end of the letter, he concluded, “Based on the site conditions listed above, the City believes that the landfill site is not causing significant environmental contamination or endangering human health and welfare. It is the City’s opinion that no additional investigation or remediation efforts are necessary for the Olbrich Landfill site and is requesting such a finding from the Department.”

In March 2005, the DNR agreed with the city’s request, and no further investigation was done.

However, ten years later, iron and manganese  are still a significant problem at Well 8, in Olbrich Park. A Water Utility official told me in 2015 that they hadn’t ruled out the Olbrich landfill as a source of VOCs, iron and/or manganese to Well 8.

The well will eventually have a filter to remove manganese and iron (currently slated for 2021). With many VOC plumes lurking all around the well—Kipp’s plume, the Olbrich Landfill plume, the mysterious “other businesses” that have VOC plumes—the Utility knows it might as well go ahead and put a VOC filter on Well 8 in addition to a filter for iron/manganese. So in the end, the ratepayers will pay to clean up the pollution from the Kipp, the city’s Olbrich Landfill, and apparently some unknown other businesses in the area with VOC plumes that have reached the well.

Why won’t the Water Utility admit publicly that in addition to the Kipp plume, the Olbrich Landfill is a likely source of the PCE breakdown product 1, 2 cis dichloroethylene, iron, and manganese to the well??

Last but not least…

WSJ: “DNR spokesman Andrew Savagian didn’t respond when asked why the DNR wasn’t requiring Madison Kipp to pay for the studies and monitoring” (referring to the Water Utility consultant’s forthcoming studies of the path of the plume)


It  is highly troubling that the DNR refused to talk to Mr. Verburg for this article

As far as Kipp, DNR, Water Utility and Well 8–the July 15 2013 lawsuit settlement included the following stipulations:

Public Drinking Water Supply. Subject to MKC’s reserved right to appeal, challenge, object to or litigate any decision or indecision of any governmental authority concerning the investigation or remediation with respect to the Facility, MKC will continue to work with WDNR and Madison city officials to take such reasonable steps as necessary to protect City Well 8 or other public drinking water sources from any impact attributable to the Facility.” (p. 8) (italics added).

To some extent, during the lawsuit, Kipp, DNR, DHS, city engineering and the Water Utility worked together on issues related to Kipp’s plume and Well 8. In the last year, comments made at Water Utility meetings indicate that this is no longer the case—that DNR has decided that addressing Kipp’s plume is just the Water Utility’s problem. It seems that both Kipp and DNR have decided they no longer need to work with the Water Utility on assessing the path and extent of Kipp’s groundwater plume and making sure it doesn’t get into drinking water wells. Perhaps Kipp is using its “reserved right to appeal, challenge, object to or litigate any decision or indecision of any governmental authority concerning the investigation or remediation with respect to the Facility”? As far as the DNR, isn’t it the agency’s responsibility to protect groundwater?

Shouldn’t there be public discussions of all of the above issues, each of which has significant implications for public and environmental health?????

To be continued in Part II…

[i]  This estimate is based on an average hydraulic conductivity of 7 ft/day and porosity of 20% (Ruekert/Mielke, 2011 on behalf of Madison Water Utility) and average gradient of 0.003 (RJN Environmental Serices, 2011, Annual Report).(Footnote in Everett’s report)

[ii] 64,800 gal/day = 1,971,000 gal/month; 3.78544 liters/gal = 7,461,102.2. liters/month; 1240 µg/ average X 7,461,102.2 L/month = 9,251,766,672 µg or 9.3 kilograms of VOC X 12 = 111.6 kg/year; 1 kg = 2.2 bs so 111.6 X 2.2 = 245.5 pounds of VOCs per year.

[iii] Because the permit is based on monthly averages, and discharge reports aren’t submitted to the DNR until the middle of the following month, daily VOC levels can go much higher than these limits (as long as the monthly averages are below them); if the monthly average levels go over the allowed limits, the DNR won’t know until the following month. In July 2015, the PCE and TCE levels did go above the limits, but DNR wasn’t notified till August. How does this approach protect Starkweather Creek from high discharges of toxic VOCs?

[iv] If we assume that the GETS discharge has about 549 ug/L in it, doing the calculations, this would be 549 X 7,358,895.4 Liters a month = 4,040,033,355 ug or about 4 kg per month or 48 kg per year or 105.6 pounds

[v] On June 26 2013, Kipp’s consultants (Arcadis) gave a presentation to DNR, DHS, PHMDC, and Kipp’s managers and attorneys (the EPA person involved with the Kipp site may have participated by phone). Arcadis highlighted that the ISCO treatment had been 99% effective in the “design zone” of the unconsolidated area (20-30 feet in depth). However, there was “complete rebound observed at most bedrock well locations due to back-diffusion between matrix and apertures.”  Consequently, they concluded that “matrix diffusion impedes active bedrock source treatment” with ISCO.

[vi] In 1945 when Well 8 was drilled, a “test well” was drilled adjacent to Well 8 that is connected to the main well in order to increase Well 8’s hydraulic capacity.

[vii] Many Madison drinking water wells have similar test holes, so the Water Utility’s repeated assurance to the public that contaminants from the surface cannot get down to deep drinking water wells because they draw water from below the protective Eau Claire shale is disingenuous at best. Water Utility officials know that surface contaminants in areas around these wells can seep through test wells and get into adjacent drinking water wells drawing from the deep aquifer.

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Madison-Kipp Clean Air Act violations: MEJO response to Kipp CEO

Madison-Kipp Clean Air Act violations: MEJO response to Kipp CEO

Madison-Kipp Corp President/CEO Tony Koblinski responded to our post regarding the EPA consent decree for his company’s Clean Air Act violations. Here is our response:

Dear Mr. Koblinski: We offer the following responses to your comments in hopes of providing some clarity as to why we are dissatisfied with the resolution of the EPA’s Notice of Violation (NOV) to Madison-Kipp Corp.

Koblinski: “This NOV is not a new matter.  It was issued to us September 12, 2012.”  

MEJO Response: Right—these violations are not new. They go back many years. For more on Kipp’s air pollution issues since 1990, and the community’s struggle to address them, see here and here.

The EPA violations occurred from 2007 (and before) through at least 2013. Kipp’s lawyers negotiated with EPA for 2.5 years after the initial violation was sent to them on Sept. 12, 2012.

In 2008, a DNR air pollution compliance engineer notified Kipp that they were using the wrong emissions factors, underestimating the stack discharges and violating their permit. However, after this engineer passed away and another one was assigned, the DNR continued to allow Kipp to use the wrong emissions factors for years, even after the 2012 NOV from EPA was issued. In 2013, DNR found Kipp in full compliance with air regulations, even while the company was still using the wrong emissions factors. DNR South Central Air Management Supervisor Tom Roushar explained in fall 2013 (about a year after the EPA NOV was issued) that it was acceptable that Kipp continued to use the 2001 emissions factors through 2013 even though their permit specified that they should use the higher 2007 emissions factors. He felt that EPA’s allegations were unsubstantiated (though oddly, he claimed not to have seen the NOV).

Koblinski: “It does not allege that we violated our emissions limits, but rather that we did not have adequate controls on our data recording, emissions factors, record keeping, calibration and plant signage.  These are technical issues which we have taken very seriously, but at no time have we exceeded our permitted emissions limits.”  

MEJO Response: Kipp’s estimated levels of air emissions, a key basis on which agencies assess regulatory compliance, are almost entirely based on the company’s own data recording, records keeping, and/or the emission factors they use. Because Kipp kept bad (or no) records on important processes that affect emission levels, and/or used old, incorrect emissions factors, inaccurate emission estimates were reported to the DNR, EPA, and the public for over five years. These are not just minor “administrative” or “technical” issues.

In 2012, Representative Chris Taylor asked the DNR to require Kipp to measure the actual emissions from its stacks. The DNR responded by saying that the extensive recordkeeping required of Kipp was superior to testing emissions. Shortly thereafter, the EPA issued its notice of violation because Kipp was neither conducting its required recordkeeping nor filing correct reports.

Here’s one example of the consequences of using an incorrect emissions factor. Because Kipp used a 2001 emissions factor for chlorine that was 5.8 times lower than its 2007 permit required it to use, chlorine wasn’t reported at all on several air emissions inventories between 2007 and 2012 even though it should have been; incorrect chlorine emissions factors produced inaccurate chlorine emissions estimates that were lower than DNR reporting thresholds. Stack tests done in 2014 as part of the recent NOV showed that Kipp was emitting almost 12 times more chlorine than the 2001 emissions factor they used from 2007 to 2013 predicted they would emit.

Kipp also used 2001 emissions factors for dioxins through at least 2012, even though a more appropriate stack test in 2007 showed dioxin/furan emission levels orders of magnitude above the levels found in 2001 tests. Dioxins (and closely related compounds, called furans) are highly toxic at extremely minute levels—much, much more toxic than chlorine and even the tetrachoroethylene (PCE) Kipp workers dumped onto the ground for years. Even though Kipp stack tests in 2001, 2003, and 2007 showed that Kipp emitted dioxins/furans (and emissions factors increased with each test), none of Kipp’s air inventories have ever reported dioxin/furan emission levels, because using the old emissions factor kept the estimated emission levels under the DNR’s reporting limit. DNR was either oblivious to Kipp’s method of keeping their emission off the public air inventories, or decided that this was acceptable.

Kipp was also found in violation by EPA for not maintaining accurate records of its “Hazardous Air Pollutant” (HAP) emissions, which include a number of other highly toxic chemicals emitted from the factory.

Again, these record-keeping and reporting issues are not minor technical matters. Given the decades of community concerns about dioxins, chlorine, and other hazardous air pollutant emissions from Kipp, and hundreds of complaints to government agencies about strong chemical odors and health effects in the neighborhood, these reporting issues are very problematic, whether or not emission levels exceeded regulatory limits (which studies show, for many of the contaminants emitted Kipp, are too high to adequately protect public health).

Considering the discovery of extremely high levels of contaminants in soil and groundwater at Kipp, is it any surprise that Kipp did not maintain the records needed to show it complied with air pollution control laws? Pollutant levels reported to the DNR for air inventories are the only way citizens have to know what hazardous pollutants Kipp is emitting and at what levels. Kipp knows that and has worked hard to keep these chemicals off air inventories, in part, by using incorrect emissions factors. According to DNR, in 2007/2008, industries lobbied hard to not be required to report emissions below reporting limits (as they had been before). DNR allowed this.

Violations led to increases in actual emissions

Some of Kipp’s violations likely led to actual higher emissions of hazardous air pollutants, not just incorrect emissions estimates. The lubricant used to make aluminum castings is evaporated and partially burned, then exhausted through the roof. Rather than actually capturing and controlling the die lubricant emissions, diluting the die lubricant is the method required by DNR for reducing emissions from the die casting process. One of the EPA violations against Kipp was not diluting the die lubricants as much as required in its permit, resulting in higher VOC and other toxic emissions from die casting.

Other violations included not recording how much they diluted the die lubricant and/or not calibrating their die lubricant mixing equipment correctly—in other words, not following the emissions control method they are required by the permit to follow. These die casting violations are not minor technical issues. The “waxy/oily/burnt” and “metallic” smells neighbors have complained of for years are primarily die casting emissions. According to EPA, the top eight Toxic Release Inventory (TRI) air releases reported from aluminum die casting industries in the U.S. are: aluminum (fume or dust), trichloroethylene, tetrachloroethylene, zinc (fume or dust), copper, hexachloroethane, glycol ethers, and zinc compounds.

Actual emissions from Kipp’s die casting processes have been measured only sporadically and incompletely over the years inside the plant—and not for many years. In 1994, an OSHA inspector measured “oil mists” and “release agents” from die casting processes made up of metals and numerous organic compounds, including: aliphatic hydrocarbons, aliphatic alcohols, acetic acid, organic acids, butyrated hydroxyl toluene, long chain aromatic compounds, fatty acid methyl esters, propylene glycol, hydroxytriethylamine, methyl styrene, 1-2-2—methoxy-1-methyl-ethoxy-1-methylethoxy-2- propanol, and several “unidentified compounds.” The “condensate of mold release agent” contained “50% gray metallic flakes” made up of lead, aluminum, zinc, copper, and iron as well as “small particles, oily or greasy substances” and “brown particles.”

The 2001 “Madison Kipp Corp Exposure Assessment,” done by the Madison Public Health Department listed the following emissions measured above Kipp’s die casting machines in 1998: 1, 1, 1 trichloroethane, benzene, toluene, 1, 2 butadiene, hexane, ethanol, acetone, and several “unknown alkanes or alkenes.” Other reports and studies indicate that aluminum die casting emissions may also contain other very toxic chlorinated compounds such as chlorinated paraffins, PCBs, and dioxins/furans (as far as we know, these compounds have never been tested for in Kipp’s die casting emissions, inside the plant or from the stacks/vents).

During the 2011 inspection by EPA, the inspector noted “hazy air” in the die casting areas in both the Atwood and Fair Oaks facilities. This “haze” is the “oil mist” or die cast emissions, made up of many of the hazardous air pollutants listed above. Workers inhale this mist. It goes out open doors and windows and into roof vents and stacks uncontrolled. That’s why the odors are so strong in the neighborhood on some days. Again, Kipp has never characterized the chemical components of their die cast stack emissions or reported them to the DNR, nor has DNR required them to do so.

Prior to 1995, the “oily mist” from die casting was primarily vented through the doors and windows into adjacent backyards. At that time, after hundreds of neighborhood complaints, Kipp installed many roof vents sending the die casting fumes and the waxy odor further through the neighborhood. Only in 2007 did DNR recognize that Kipp was violating the 1971 air quality standards and required taller stacks rather than simple roof vents, in order to disperse the die casting emissions higher and further away. Current emissions factors for die casting are based on stack tests done in 1994 (that did not assess chemical components of the emissions).

Die casting emissions deposit on Kipp’s side walls and roofs, are washed off during rain/snow, and go into the storm drain system and eventually to the raingarden and/or Starkweather Creek and then Lake Monona. Kipp doesn’t test the chemicals in its stormwater runoff, so we don’t know what contaminants are going into the raingarden and the already highly impaired Starkweather Creek and Lake Monona.

Koblinski: “Under the direction of the EPA we completed new stack testing in May of 2014 and further verified that we operate within a fraction of our allowable emissions levels.”

MEJO Response: In the May 2014 EPA tests, the Atwood aluminum furnace stack emissions were tested for chlorine, hydrochloric acid, PM (particulate matter) and PM-10 (particulate matter ten microns or less in size). The Fair Oaks stacks were tested only for PM/PM-10. The smaller, more toxic components of particulate matter (PM 2.5) were not assessed at stacks from either facility. Dioxins/furans were not tested. Aluminum salts were not tested. No other hazardous pollutants were tested. Die casting emissions were not tested. Therefore, we have no idea whether Kipp was “within a fraction of allowable emission levels” for small particulates and many of the other hazardous air pollutants they emit.

The allowable emissions levels in Kipp’s expired air pollution permit are no basis to judge if the surrounding neighborhood is safe. The discharge limits were established to meet the old air quality standards. All the stacks on Kipp’s roof were designed to comply with the 1971 air standard for PM. The DNR’s own analysis shows current permit limits are not sufficient to comply with modern air quality standards for fine particles or PM2.5. Die casting emissions factors are over two decades old.

The community has asked repeatedly over the years that Kipp more completely characterize die casting emissions and update die casting emissions factors. Given that several of Kipp’s EPA violations had to do with issues that would affect die casting emissions, it is problematic that die casting emissions were not part of the stack testing done for the NOV. We don’t know why, but Kipp’s lawyers likely negotiated them out of the agreement if they were ever on the table for consideration. Further, originally the EPA planned to test dioxins/furans to resolve this Notice of Violation. However, Kipp’s legal team talked them out of doing dioxin/furan tests some time in 2014 (based on MEJO communications with EPA).

Koblinski: “I approached the Goodman Center to see if they had an energy efficiency project that I could help them with and ultimately agreed to pay $80,000 towards their needed chiller upgrade…”  

MEJO Response: We think improving energy efficiency is very important, but this Goodman Supplemental Environmental Project (SEP) does nothing to reduce exposures to Kipp’s toxic pollution (as described above) among the children who play at Goodman just feet from the factory. Also, it makes it even more likely that Goodman leaders will not raise any questions about Kipp’s pollution. Madison-Kipp, its wealthy owner Reed Coleman, and/or the several foundations to which Mr. Coleman funnels his wealth, have supported the Goodman Community Center with funding and other types of support since it was located next to Kipp and before that when it was the Atwood Community Center. This is one reason the Goodman Center leaders do not raise concerns about Kipp’s pollution, and dismiss or ridicule those in the community who do raise these concerns. The Goodman SEP is, in effect, more hush money to Goodman. What a boon for Kipp—congratulations!

Meanwhile, the SEPs Kipp agreed to didn’t consider in any way the concerns and suggestions of many people in the Kipp neighborhood for over two decades. Since the 1990s, hundreds of Kipp neighbors have asked for more monitoring, better emissions and noise controls, and a variety of other actions to reduce or eliminate the noise, odors, and toxic pollution from Kipp. In most cases, their concerns have been dismissed or ignored by Kipp (and DNR).  

Koblinski: “The violations indicated in the NOV did not “expose residents and children at the center to harmful pollutants” as they were administrative in nature and we have always operated well within the limits of our permits (in fact less than 4% of our total allowable).

MEJO Response: As outlined above, the violations were much more than just “administrative” and likely did result in higher emissions of some hazardous air pollutants, which continue to be emitted from the factory at unknown levels. Close neighbors of Kipp, including many children, and children playing at the Goodman Center, are among the most exposed and the most vulnerable to these hazardous pollutants released from stacks and vents just feet away from where they live and play.  

Koblinski: “The EPA did not make a “surprise, unannounced visit to our facility,” rather the inaccuracies in our reporting were discovered through the standard annual reporting that we do to the EPA and subsequent information exchanges throughout 2012.”

MEJO Response: This EPA document about the Jan. 12, 2011 inspection of Kipp describes the inspection as “unannounced.”  We don’t think EPA would lie about this.  

Koblinski: Lastly, I would use this opportunity to indicate that we are progressing well on a number of fronts as we take responsibility for the unintended environmental impacts caused over previous decades.  

I won’t list all of the actions taken and completed as those are documented through various reports submitted to the WDNR and posted to their site.  Work still ahead of us includes:

– Some additional soil remediation (removal) work remains to be done in the storm water ‘bio-basin’ (Rain Garden) and adjacent bike path.  

– We will be bringing the Ground water Extraction and Treatment System GETS on line later this month to pump and filter PCE impacted groundwater.

– We are working with WDNR and EPA to resolve remaining PCB issues under our plant.  

We will, of course, continue to regularly monitor and verify our network of wells and probes to ensure there is no risk to public health.  

MEJO Response: Please share with the neighborhood and public the most recent documents about these activities—especially those regarding the continued removal of PCB contamination from the raingarden/bike path and also under the factory. What work remains to be done and why? Please share any available data.

A representative from the Madison/Dane Co Board of Health recently reported to the Madison Committee on the Environment that all the PCBs at Kipp have been remediated. Obviously, this is incorrect. Recent documents about these activities are not posted on the DNR website. People in the neighborhood, and the public officials who serve them, need to know about ongoing remediation of highly toxic soils going on right in the middle of where they live, work, and play (children are playing at a splash pad just feet from these PCB remediations!).


Tony Koblinski


Madison-Kipp Corp.

MEJO Response: Thanks, Mr. Koblinski! Drop us an email any time if you have further questions or comments.



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