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Send Your Valentines for Babies’ Hearts

Send Your Valentines for Babies’ Hearts

From Laura Olah, Citizens for Safe Water Around Badger.

EPA will be holding a public meeting on Feb. 14 (Valentine’s Day) to receive input on its efforts to establish the scope of risk evaluations for 10 toxic chemicals including the solvents TCE and PCE. This is a great opportunity to raise awareness about the risk of infant heart defects from prenatal exposure to these highly toxic compounds.

YOU can make a difference for babies’ hearts… send this Valentine to EPA!

You can make your own Valentine or print this one. Add your personal message and sign, including your mailing address!

MAIL your paper heart Valentine to:

EPA Office of Pollution Prevention & Toxics
c/o Citizens for Safe Water Around Badger
E12629 Weigands Bay South
Merrimac, WI 53561

 WOW!  We will make sure your Valentine is HAND DELIVERED at the Feb. 14 meeting in Washington DC!

In order for this campaign to be the most effective, we need LOTS OF HEARTS !!!

WANT TO HELP EVEN MORE?  Share this message with your friends and family and ask them to participate too!

FOR MORE INFORMATION:

Public meeting info including registration and deadlines: http://bit.ly/2jQwU7k

Health info from: https://www.atsdr.cdc.gov/sites/lejeune/tce_pce.html

Web address for Valentine to EPA:

http://cswab.org/safewater/wp-content/uploads/2017/01/Heart-Action-Alert-sheet-TCE-PCE.pdf

This Action Alert is also posted on our website at:

http://cswab.org/send-your-valentine-for-babies-hearts/

Laura Olah, Executive Director

Citizens for Safe Water Around Badger (CSWAB)

Coordinator, Cease Fire Campaign

E12629 Weigand’s Bay S, Merrimac, WI 53561

(608)643-3124

info@cswab.org

www.cswab.org

www.twitter.com/CSWAB

www.facebook.com/cswab.org

http://cswab.org/resources/cease-fire-campaign

http://www.facebook.com/ceasefirecampaign/

No effort, no matter how small is wasted when it is in the service of a clean and just world.

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Midwest Environmental Justice Organization Joins National People’s Task Force on Superfund’s Future

Midwest Environmental Justice Organization Joins National People’s Task Force on Superfund’s Future

The Midwest Environmental Justice Organization (MEJO) joins more than 20 Superfund sites and 70 environmental organizations on the “People’s Task Force on the Future of Superfund,” which has outlined citizens’ recommendations on the EPA’s Superfund Program. See the People’s Task Force recommendations here.

The grassroots People’s Task Force, reflecting voices of communities dealing with pollution all over the U.S., is taking action after learning that the Trump Administration and newly-appointed EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt’s proposed budget includes a 30% cut in funding to the Superfund. Also, last month Pruitt assembled a Task Force to provide Superfund recommendations that will decrease cleanup oversight, privilege corporate interests over public health, and weaken transparency and community involvement.

 

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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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City of Madison continues to violate its pesticide policy

City of Madison continues to violate its pesticide policy

Photo: City of Madison employee applies Roundup along edges of Warner Park Community Center parking lot

****

In a 2014 post, we wrote about how the City of Madison wasn’t following its own pesticide policy. An article by Steve Elbow in this week’s Cap Times indicates that the city continues to violate its policy. An op-ed in this week’s Cap Times by Jim Powell, a MEJO board member, explains more…

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Communities Press EPA to Regulate Vapor Intrusion

Communities Press EPA to Regulate Vapor Intrusion

MEJO joined dozens of organizations and activists including Erin Brokovich in co-signing a letter to EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt this week, urging him to allow rulemaking on vapor intrusion to move forward. Vapor intrusion is the migration of toxic vapors from the subsurface into the indoor air of overlying buildings.

“Subsurface intrusion is occurring at thousands of sites across the country. Hazardous volatile substances—substances known to cause cancer, birth defects, and other serious health problems—are migrating into our homes, workplaces, schools and daycare centers, recreational facilities, and places of worship,” the May 18 letter says.

Currently sites with a serious potential for vapor intrusion but no other completed pathways do not qualify for the federal “Superfund” National Priorities List (NPL). So over the past several years EPA developed, with public input, a rule that would modify the scoring system used to qualify sites for the NPL.

Implementation of the rule, promulgated in the latter days of the Obama Administration, has been deferred as part of the new administration’s anti-regulatory fervor.

 

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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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THE TRUE COST of Burning Military Munitions

THE TRUE COST of Burning Military Munitions

By Laura Olah, Citizens for Safe Water Around Badger, Cease Fire Campaign

Toxic pollutants are released when munitions are open burned, open detonated or incinerated. These toxic emissions endanger public health by contaminating air, groundwater and soils near open burning/open detonation (OB/OD) operations. Military personnel are often the most exposed to these toxic pollutants, along with nearby communities. Across the country, hundreds of communities and thousands of military personnel have felt the adverse effects of these toxic pollutants.

To learn more, watch this short video.

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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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Kipp Raingarden Update, Part 1: MEJO tests show that city land next to Kipp raingarden still contaminated with PCBs

Kipp Raingarden Update, Part 1:  MEJO tests show that city land next to Kipp raingarden still contaminated with PCBs

Photo: Kids walk along bikepath next to Kipp raingarden in February 2017.

Sadly, the seemingly never-ending Kipp raingarden saga continues. (See the long history of the Kipp Raingarden PCB Saga here, here, and here...and more).

In February 2017, MEJO gathered shallow soil samples next to the city bike path adjacent to the Madison-Kipp raingarden and had them tested for PCBs.  One sample had total PCB levels twelve times higher than the residential direct contact “residual contaminant levels” (RCL) appropriate for this area. Another had levels about five times higher than the residential RCL.[1][2]

MEJO’s samples were from surface soils (top 1-2 inches) right next to the bike path, where people walk and jog, children play, parents push strollers, and pets frolic. City and state officials have told us repeatedly that nobody could be exposed to PCBs along the bike path because surface soils there were not likely to be contaminated.

Also, this city-owned area was deemed “closed” by DNR in July 2016 with the understanding that PCBs remaining there over the RCLs had been excavated—or capped with clean, PCB-free soils to prevent exposures to people walking or playing there.

However, the MEJO samples with PCB over the RCLs were from areas that were never actually tested for PCBs because Madison Gas & Electric would not allow excavations near their utility poles and underground lines. (See this map of what areas were excavated and what areas were not because they were MGE “utility buffers.”) One of the samples was from a grassy area upstream of the raingarden where stormwater flows into the raingarden every time it rains—likely re-contaminating the raingarden. Another sample was downstream of the raingarden. Neither area was ever excavated or capped.

In one area inches from the bike path that was “capped” in October 2015 with a thin layer of purportedly “clean” soils, to cover remaining areas with PCBs over the RCLs, we found PCB levels over half the residential RCL. There really shouldn’t be any PCBs above detection limits in this cap soil. The July 16, 2016 DNR letter to Mayor Soglin about the DNR’s approval of final closure for the area states “[t]he soil and asphalt caps over the contaminated soil serve as a barrier to prevent direct human contact with residual soil contamination that might otherwise pose a threat to human health. Based on the current use of the property, the barrier should function as intended unless disturbed.”

The soil cap has been repeatedly disturbed since it was placed there (see here and here).  The snow fence placed around the original cap came down almost immediately and was never put back up.[3] The city driveway and parking lot caps, over highly contaminated soils, have also been repeatedly disturbed. The DNR closure agreement includes maintenance requirements to prevent disturbances of caps meant to protect people from exposures—but apparently nobody is taking these requirements seriously, despite the area’s heavy public use and location next to a community center.

The bottom line? The public area along the bike path next to Kipp is still contaminated with PCBs over the levels city and state officials agreed could remain there without being capped. The capped area is not PCB-free, and is highly disturbed. Adults, children, and pets walk, jog and play all over these areas.

Why are PCBs on this highly used city land not being fully investigated or remediated? Who is responsible? It is not clear. But it is very clear that public health is not being protected.

Where did these PCBs come from? See Part 2, coming soon…

[1] “Residual contaminant levels” are the contaminant levels that can remain in place without capping according to DNR policy. Responsible government officials typically decide whether to use lower, more protective “residential” or higher, less protective “industrial” RCLs based on the zoning of the land and how the land is used. According to DNR guidance, heavily publicly used land such as this area, next to residences and a community center, should use residential RCLs. Both MEJO samples over the residential RCLs were also over the industrial RCLs.

The city’s lease to Kipp for the raingarden, signed in Jun 2015, says: “The City shall, in consultation with the Lessee, conduct periodic sampling of the Biobasin for new environmental contamination. If the annual environmental sampling indicates new PCB contamination to the Biobasin, the Lessee shall remediate the contamination according to local, State, and federal standards. The Lessee shall also determine the source of the contamination and take action to ensure that further contamination does not occur. New contamination shall be defined as shallow soil sample results above the DNR residential direct contact standard (RCL) for PCBs.” (highlighting added).

However, the Kipp consultant report says industrial standards would be used for cleanup decisions. Whose decision was this? On what basis was it made?

[2] These levels are 108 to 265 times higher than the RCL for the “soil to groundwater pathway.” The highest level of PCBs found along the bike path to date (1020 ppm), is over 108,000 times the soil to groundwater RCL. Yet, groundwater under the raingarden and bike path area has never been tested for PCBs.

[3] Our ongoing emails to city and state officials since 2015 with photos of this disturbed area were apparently ignored.

 

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