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Polluter Pleased with Paltry Penalty

Polluter Pleased with Paltry Penalty

Photo: Past excavations of PCBs along bike path next to Madison-Kipp Corporation

The Wisconsin Department of Justice (DOJ) finally settled the civil action against Madison-Kipp Corporation it initiated in September, 2012 regarding the decades of discharges of numerous toxic chemicals, including polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), tetrachloroethylene (PCE), trichloroethylene (TCE) and many others from the plant. The settlement includes a $350,000 fine—most of which is to cover DNR, DOJ, and court costs—along with “financial assurances” from Kipp of to cover future cleanup costs.[1] The settlement allows the company to delay cleaning up the high levels of PCBs under the factory, perhaps indefinitely. For more details about the settlement, read Steve Verburg’s Wisconsin State Journal article.

Tony Koblinski, Kipp’s CEO, told the State Journal he is “pleased with the settlement.”

Of course he is pleased.  After all, Kipp officials asked the DOJ to sue it back in 2011-2012. As we wrote in a previous post, the lawsuit was intended all along to allow Kipp to legally negotiate its way out of fully investigating and cleaning up the egregious toxic pollution it spewed far and wide into groundwater, surrounding neighborhoods, Starkweather Creek, and Lake Monona.

The fine DOJ issued against Kipp is paltry—a drop in the bucket for the company. Another big bonus? The settlement also protects the company from future lawsuits! [2]

So, Kipp got what it wanted–with the help of its high-powered law firm, Michael Best & Friedrich, which negotiated with DOJ attorneys for five years while citizens were in the dark.

As for the environmental investigations and remediation requirements outlined in the settlement, most are weak and/or include loopholes that would allow Kipp to avoid fully cleaning up the contamination. The groundwater PCB testing outlined in the settlement is particularly problematic; it is technically inadequate on a number of levels and designed not to find that PCBs have traveled offsite in groundwater. This is extremely critical, because if tests show PCBs have moved offsite in groundwater, this could trigger excavation of PCBs under the factory.

Another significant problem is that many of the environmental investigative and remedial requirements in the settlement depend on DNR’s discretion and oversight, which to date have been lax and inadequate (DNR’s lax oversight of Kipp in the past allowed the horrible contamination situation at Kipp to develop in the first place!). Unfortunately, in the current de-regulatory environment in Wisconsin, DNR’s oversight of Kipp is not likely to improve, and will likely get worse.

Meanwhile, people and the environment around Kipp will continue to be exposed to hazardous chemicals from the factory, including highly toxic PCBs, indefinitely.

 

[1] The “financial assurance” is to be up to $1.65 million and according to the WSJ article, could be in the form of a bond, insurance policy, or letter of credit. We expect it will be covered by Kipp’s insurance.

[2] The settlement states: “Compliance by Madison-Kipp with its obligations under this Stipulation and the Order for Judgment shall constitute full compromise, settlement, satisfaction, and release of Madison-Kipp, its owners, members, employees, predecessors, successors, parents, subsidiaries, affiliated companies, officers, directors, agents and assigns for any and all civil and/or criminal liability for any and all violations described in, arising out of, or relating to the facts alleged in the Complaint, as well as any claims that could have been alleged against Madison-Kipp based on any violation concerning the release or discharge of hazardous substances at the Facility which were reported to or otherwise were identified for or by DNR prior to the date of this Stipulation.”

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Kipp neighbors plan to set up their own air pollution monitors

Kipp neighbors plan to set up their own air pollution monitors

Photo: Madison-Kipp Corporation’s die casting and aluminum melting stacks behind homes on Waubesa St.

Today Steve Verburg reported in the Wisconsin State Journal that Madison-Kipp Corporation neighbors plan to set up their own monitors to assess the levels of fine particular matter emitted from the factory, since DNR won’t require the company to do so. Fine particulates are extremely harmful to health. Read the full WSJ article here.

Citizens around Kipp have been fighting the factory’s air pollution for decades. Read more about this history on the Clean Air Madison and MEJO website–see here, here, and here. 

Also, watch a short “news collage” video about Kipp’s pollution problems, put together by Clean Air Madison, here.

Below, plume from Madison Kipp’s aluminum melting stacks, at sunrise on November 27, 2017

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EPA-funded report recommends pollutant testing for Madison community center

EPA-funded report recommends pollutant testing for Madison community center

Photo: View from inside the Goodman Center’s Ironworks Cafe, looking out to the Kipp factory loading docks.

A report from the Center for Public Environmental Oversight (CPEO), funded by EPA to provide technical assistance to communities on vapor intrusion, strongly recommends comprehensive vapor intrusion testing at the Goodman Community Center on Madison’s near east side, to rule out possible exposures to volatile organic chemicals (VOCs) among youth, pregnant women, seniors, and others who use the center.

In the report, CPEO Executive Director Lenny Siegel recommends that, given the known groundwater plume with high levels of VOCs—particularly tetrachloroethylene (PCE) and trichloroethylene  (TCE)—beneath the industrial area where the Center is located, comprehensive vapor intrusion testing should be conducted there. TCE exposures are of particular concern for pregnant women, because birth defects (fetal heart malformations) can occur when women are exposed to TCE for even brief periods of time (from 1 day to three weeks).

In a Wisconsin State Journal article by Steve Verburg about Siegel’s report, DNR spokesperson Jim Dick discounted concerns about the Goodman Center. He explained that “the DNR never required vapor testing in the Goodman center just north of Madison-Kipp because shallow ground water flows from the plant to the south-southwest.” Yet maps in Kipp’s March 2017 semi-annual report contradict DNR’s claim, clearly showing Kipp’s VOC plume originating on the northern part of the Kipp site and flowing north under the Goodman Center. [1],[2]

Since the consultant map in the report above (see pg. 121), oddly, only depicted PCE, not other VOCs in the Kipp plume, and doesn’t show where buildings sit over the plume, we enhanced the map, to depict building locations and levels of trichloroethylene (TCE) and vinyl chloride (VC) in wells (numbers are from the semi-annual report tables, see link above).

The map shows that the VOC plume under Goodman is shallow, countering DNR’s claim to the contrary. To understand the risk of vapor intrusion to the center, however, it is important to know the VOC levels at the water table, which is also very shallow there. The dotted lines depicted on the cross-section map linked to above indicate that actual VOC levels in shallow groundwater very near or under the center are unknown, because they have not tested there.  Monitoring Well 26, depicted on the map, is actually several hundred feet to the east of the center, and therefore VOC levels there are irrelevant to assessing vapor intrusion risks to the center. Yet DNR officials have used data from this well to assess vapor intrusion risks to the center–and now are no longer even assessing VOCs at that well (see below).

Goodman Center is housed in the old Kupfer Ironworks foundry, across a city bike path from Madison-Kipp Corp, which has operated in the Atwood neighborhood for 115 years. After VOCs were discovered in groundwater at Kupfer around 1986-87, and then under the factory site just to the west of Kipp (Brassworks) in 1993, extremely high levels of VOCs were discovered from 1994-1997 on the northern most tip of the Kipp factory, just across from the community center.

The northern part of the Kipp site has historically had alarmingly high levels of VOCs—including up to 6.4 million parts-per-billion PCE in soils off the northeast corner of the factory across from Goodman—and also very high levels in groundwater there. While limited soil remediation was done in a small part of this area in the 1990s, reducing soil VOC levels somewhat, significant soil and groundwater contamination remains there. A groundwater extraction well was installed on city property just south of the bike path sometime in the 1990s, but nobody at DNR or the city seems to know whether or not it ever extracted contaminated groundwater. Read more about this mysterious history here.

In dismissing vapor intrusion concerns at the community center, DNR’s Dick also explained that “ground water monitoring near the Goodman center hasn’t indicated a need for vapor testing in the community center. In fact, as some monitoring wells found less contamination in shallow ground water in recent years, the DNR has been requiring less testing for toxic vapors around the Madison-Kipp plant, and less ground water monitoring.”

This is a disingenuous statement. Again, there has in fact been no recent groundwater monitoring very near or under the center—though such monitoring is essential to assess the potential for vapor intrusion there.[3] Further, Mr. Dick’s statements about requiring less testing of vapors and groundwater are disturbing, not reassuring; they reflect the fact that DNR allowed Kipp to phase out the shallow groundwater and vapor testing most essential to understanding whether vapor intrusion could be occurring in the center and in nearby homes.

Now that, with DNR’s approval, Kipp has greatly reduced this important ongoing monitoring—and has eliminated monitoring at some shallow wells and vapor probes altogether—nobody will know whether vapor levels could be rising near the community center.

The Goodman Center also recently purchased the Brassworks factory to renovate as an addition for center activities. As the east-west cross-section map linked above shows, groundwater with significant VOC levels is also under this building. While three groundwater and three soil vapor samples were taken at this site, Siegel argues that this testing wasn’t enough to rule out vapor intrusion in the building. Both center locations should be comprehensively tested for vapor intrusion, he says.

“The city should step up to the plate and protect its citizens since the DNR is not doing so. The Goodman Center serves youth, adults and seniors, in buildings sitting over a huge VOC plume that originates at Madison-Kipp (and runs all the way to Milwaukee Street to the north and many hundreds of feet in all other directions). Their health may be impacted, as well as center employees’ health,” said Jim Powell, Midwest Environmental Justice Organization (MEJO) board member.

“Since the City of Madison owns the bike path between Goodman and Kipp, and also leases the land to Kipp for its Fair Oaks Avenue factory and the raingarden that receives the factory’s stormwater pollution, it should ask Goodman to conduct these tests. The City’s own properties may be negatively impacting people’s health.”

Siegel met with citizens dealing with vapor intrusion situations

 In June, Siegel also met with citizens from three Madison neighborhoods dealing with known or potential vapor intrusion problems, but just issued his USEPA-funded report this month. Prior to issuing his report, Siegel reviewed data related to these sites, provided to him by MEJO, which has gathered thousands of pages of documents on the sites from DNR and other agencies.

Several people who met with Mr. Siegel live near Madison-Kipp and have vapor mitigation systems on their homes intended to prevent VOC vapors from entering them. Madison-Kipp agreed to install these systems and maintain them for five years as part of a class action lawsuit settled in 2013.

Residents are concerned about whether these systems are effectively protecting them from vapor intrusion, and who will maintain the systems over the long term. They have good reason for concern. Mr. Siegel’s report highlights that appropriate testing to assure that these systems are sufficiently reducing chemical vapors into homes was not done after the home mitigation systems were installed. Also, there is no plan in place to maintain and monitor these systems after Kipp’s responsibility to maintain them ends in 2018.

“I would like to know that my system is working properly and toxic vapors are no longer seeping into my home,” said Sharon Helmus, who is 78 and lives just feet from Madison-Kipp’s aluminum melting stacks.  “Who will monitor my system after 2018? I certainly don’t know how to do it and can’t afford to pay someone else to do it.”

One person living next to Kipp who was part of the lawsuit has reported that her system has not been monitored at all by Kipp or anyone else since it was installed in 2012. This appears to violate the terms of the civil lawsuit settlement–but who is going to investigate? Neither the city, county or state will; and one of the lawsuit attorneys now works for industry and is under no obligations to his former clients.

Below, home of Sharon Helmus (on the right) just feet from the Kipp factory’s aluminum melting stacks

 

Siegel met with alders to discuss what the city could do

 MEJO’s Jim Powell agrees with recommendations in Siegel’s report. “The DNR, or state and local health departments, should ensure that post-mitigation testing is done to make sure the systems are working properly, and that there is a plan for maintenance of the systems over the long-term,” he said.

Siegel also met in June with some Madison alders to discuss ways that Mountain View, California, where he is vice mayor, addresses vapor intrusion, and steps Madison could take based on his community’s model, which is commended by EPA.

“The city should develop a method of reviewing potentially dangerous vapors from intruding into our buildings, along the lines of Mountain View’s. Vapor intrusion can expose us to long-term risks of chronic disease,” said Alder David Ahrens, who met with Siegel in June.

Alder Samba Baldeh added, “The City should map all VOC plumes in the city, especially on the eastside/Isthmus where contamination seems widespread, and develop strategies to address potential vapor intrusion problems comprehensively, including broad areas over plumes, not just one site at a time.”

Other possible aspects of broad city environmental policy could include requiring employers to notify building users that it is an environmental response site, where known contaminants are being mitigated and provide website references for more information.

“The city should develop an environmental policy to protect public health and the environment,” said Alder Rebecca Kemble. “At every decision-making level, alders and committee members should have as much information as possible in front of them, including all investigative reports about known and suspected contaminants on any given site in the city.”

“Unfortunately, at many sites, groundwater VOC testing done by consultants hired by property owners and/or developers is not comprehensive enough to adequately assess whether or not there could be a potential vapor intrusion problem in buildings constructed there, or existing buildings,” said Powell. “It is in the interests of the property owners and developers not to find a groundwater VOC problem and potential for vapor intrusion, since these are expensive problems to deal with.

“While the state DNR is responsible for enforcing federal and state environmental regulations, it is in many cases failing to do so,” said Powell. “The City of Madison also has authority to protect people’s health and the environment. The City owns a lot of land that is used for industry and is available for redevelopment. It can set high standards for environmental cleanup and public health protection on those sites. Additionally, through its authority as the stormwater management utility, it can monitor and regulate stormwater discharges of toxic chemicals into local waterways by industry and other polluters. Unfortunately, it rarely does so.”

Siegel feels that Madison could develop its own approach to reviewing and addressing vapor intrusion at sites in the city in order to protect its citizens in cases when the DNR is not doing so.

[1] Historically, investigative reports for Kipp have said that the shallow and intermediate groundwater under Kipp is going south, and the deeper groundwater is going north. However, DNR officials have stated that the shallow groundwater “sloshes around” in all directions at various times, depending on a number of factors including rainfall, lake levels, pumping of nearby Water Utility wells, and other factors.

[2] Also, if the shallow and intermediate groundwater is flowing south/southwest, why haven’t groundwater and vapors to the south of Kipp been tested? There are many homes and businesses to the south and southwest of the factory. In the 1990s, the DNR actually planned to install wells on properties to the south of Kipp, but they were never installed. MEJO’s repeated questions about this to DNR over the years have been ignored. Is DNR afraid of what they might find?

[3] As the CPEO report notes, in 2001 a few groundwater samples near the Goodman building found some VOCs, including 14 ppb PCE in a sample right next to where the Goodman’s Ironworks Café is now. The samples were likely fairly shallow, but reports did not clarify depths.

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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
 madison.com

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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