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MEJO Investigates 1

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

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

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

PCBS AT KIPP – When did the DNR know?

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

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

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

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

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

LATER IN THE SERIES:

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

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MEJO in the News

MEJO in “Environmental Health News”

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

By Rae Tyson Environmental Health News September 13, 2012

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

See more here:

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

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Smart Meters: A Risk to Public Health and the Environment

Smart People Against Stupid Meters

Smart meter technology has emerged as a major new pathway for human exposure to radiofrequency radiation, which the World Health Organization has classified a possible human carcinogen. A variety of health effects from exposure to microwaves is well known, though the regulatory approach varies dramatically from country to country.

Microwaves are the part of the radio frequency spectrum that cell phones, wifi and smart meters broadcast within. The technology that each of these varies, but radiofrequency radiation is a concern from all these sources. For most of us, radio frequencies, microwaves, etc. are challenging topics to understand. A good primer can be found here.

A group of concerned citizens in Madison, Wisconsin has been learning about smart meters and has challenged the City of Madison implementation of smart meter technology for its Water Utility. MEJO has been involved in providing technical and organizing assistance for this group, called “Stop Smart Meters Madison”.

MEJO has worked to share scientific studies with local decision makers, but has found a strange total denial of all health concerns. See more here.

MEJO has been helping citizens engage with local decision makers at the city council, city hall and committee level. Another oddly uniform fingers-in-the ears, “I-can’t-hear-you” response is described here.

While many cities across the country have worked with their citizens to provide opt out opportunities or have challenged smart meter technology implementation by electric and gas utilities, in Madison, Wisconsin, it’s the city that is fighting its own citizens on behalf of a water utility and global telecommunications corporations like Itron, Inc. Strange indeed.

UPDATE: On October 24, 2012, the Wisconsin Public Service Commission approved a smart meter opt out for Madison Water Utility customers, a resounding victory for smart people against stupid meters. (See an article here.)

 

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A better approach?

GONE FISHING!

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

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

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

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

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Greenwashing and Doublespeak in Wisconsin Highway Plan

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

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

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

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

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

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

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“Invisible People, Invisible Risks”

In the new MIT Press book, Technoscience and Environmental Justice: Expert Cultures in a Grassroots Movement, the Midwest Environmental Justice Organization (MEJO) chronicles its Madison effort to raise local awareness of toxins in locally caught fish and the two-year odyssey to convince public officials to place fish consumption advisory signs at popular shoreline fishing spots.

The story is chronicled in the chapter titled, “Invisible People, Invisible Risks: How Scientific Assessments of Environmental Health Risks Overlook Minorities—and How Community Participation Can Make Them Visible by Maria Powell, PhD and Jim Powell, with Ly V. Xiong, Kazoua Moua, Jody Schmitz, Benito Juarez Olivas, and VamMeej Yang, and is part of the book Technoscience and Environmental Justice.

Excerpts from the book and more:

Invisible People, Invisble Risks – MEJO chapter in Technoscience and EJ

 

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Bad Air in Dane County, Wis.: Where’s the Communication?

From February 2-5, Dane County , along with several other counties in Wisconsin , was under an “Air Quality Advisory for Particle Pollution” due to elevated levels of small particulates in the air.

The advisory was in the “orange” level, which means that the particulate levels were unhealthy for “sensitive groups”– people with respiratory and/or heart diseases, the elderly, and children. This includes at least half of the population. Some minority and lower income groups have higher rates of respiratory and cardiovascular diseases, and/or less access to health care, and are therefore even more vulnerable.

The DNR website suggests that “people in those groups are advised to reschedule or cut back on strenuous activities” and more specifically, “people with lung diseases such as asthma and bronchitis, and heart disease should pay attention to cardiac symptoms like chest pain and shortness of breath or respiratory symptoms like coughing, wheezing and discomfort when taking a breath, and consult with their physician if they have concerns or are experiencing symptoms. Fine particle pollution deposits itself deep into the lungs and cannot easily be exhaled. People who are at risk are particularly vulnerable after several days of high particle pollution exposure” (taken verbatim from the DNR website).

 

It is critical that we do something to reduce air pollution in Dane County . While this is a regional air quality problem, and is exacerbated by weather patterns such as winter inversions and ‘stagnant air masses’, that doesn’t leave Madison and Dane County institutions and people off the hook. It’s our pollution that’s being trapped by inversions.

 

A purportedly ‘progressive’ community such as Madison , with a high concentration of very educated and privileged people, a prestigious research university and local and state government agencies, has no good excuse for not doing better.

See our full press release here.

From February 2-5, Dane County , along with several other counties in Wisconsin , was under an “Air Quality Advisory for Particle Pollution” due to elevated levels of small particulates in the air.

The advisory was in the “orange” level, which means that the particulate levels were unhealthy for “sensitive groups”– people with respiratory and/or heart diseases, the elderly, and children. This includes at least half of the population. Some minority and lower income groups have higher rates of respiratory and cardiovascular diseases, and/or less access to health care, and are therefore even more vulnerable.

 

The DNR website suggests that “people in those groups are advised to reschedule or cut back on strenuous activities” and more specifically, “people with lung diseases such as asthma and bronchitis, and heart disease should pay attention to cardiac symptoms like chest pain and shortness of breath or respiratory symptoms like coughing, wheezing and discomfort when taking a breath, and consult with their physician if they have concerns or are experiencing symptoms. Fine particle pollution deposits itself deep into the lungs and cannot easily be exhaled. People who are at risk are particularly vulnerable after several days of high particle pollution exposure” (taken verbatim from the DNR website).

It is critical that we do something to reduce air pollution in Dane County . While this is a regional air quality problem, and is exacerbated by weather patterns such as winter inversions and ‘stagnant air masses’, that doesn’t leave Madison and Dane County institutions and people off the hook. It’s our pollution that’s being trapped by inversions.

A purportedly ‘progressive’ community such as Madison , with a high concentration of very educated and privileged people, a prestigious research university and local and state government agencies, has no good excuse for not doing better.

See our full press release here: PRESS RELEASE – Bad Air in Dane County

 

 

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Fish Advisory Signs Victory!

In recognition of the human health concerns of eating locally caught fish, the City of Madison and Dane County has authorized the Public Health Department to place fish consumption advisory signs along public fishing shorelines in city and county parks.

Signs will be installed in the spring before fishing season begins. Popular fishing spots such as Monona Bay in Brittingham Park will have advisory signs in English, Hmong and Spanish to advise people on the kinds and amounts of fish safest to eat.

Go here for our fish advisory sign analysis: MEJO Fish Advisory Sign Summary Report

Here’s a good national analysis of why this is an important issue: Fish Consumption & Environmental Justice

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Fish advisory signs installed to highlight need for official action Environmental justice activists and anglers place signs around Monona Bay

(MADISON, Wis.)—Sixty people gathered at Brittingham Park on Thurs., Sept. 20 to make and install fish consumption advisory signs to help shoreline anglers learn about the toxins in fish caught in Monona Bay.

“Mercury, PCBs, PAHs, heavy metals, and other toxin levels in Monona Bay make it necessary for people to limit their consumption of many of the fish caught there, yet there are no signs posted anywhere along the bay shoreline to notify anglers of the risks,” said Madison Environmental Justice Organization Executive Director Maria Powell.

“This is important because Monona Bay is one of the most heavily fished spots in the county, and most of  the shoreline, often low-income anglers are not aware of the fish advisories,” she continued. “Signs posted around the bay at least would provide information to shoreline anglers as they fish and may lead them to make safer decisions about consuming fish.”

MEJO has been asking state and county officials to install advisory signs to for the past year. The state often post fish consumption advisory signs at public boat ramps, but has not placed any around Monona Bay , where most anglers fish from shore. MEJO posted their own unofficial signs to draw attention to the need for the state and county to do so. MEJO members Cynthia Lin, Kazoua Moua, VamMeej Yang, Benito Juarez Olivas, Jody Schmitz and Sierra Powell welcomed a large crowd at the Brittingham Park fish fry where they learned about the pollution problems in the bay.

 

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