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Ignorance is Bliss (Part 3 )

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

Overview: Toxic Contaminants From Above and Below

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

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

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

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

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

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

Full article: MEJO Ignorance is Bliss Part 3

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