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It Is Time to Reform Landscape Ordinances – Part 2  

It Is Time to Reform Landscape Ordinances – Part 2  

Photo: Tree-lined streets like this one have safer traffic flow than streets without trees.

By Janette Rosenbaum.

Part 1 of this article described Madison’s vegetation ordinances, how public opinion is now at odds with those ordinances, and how the ordinances are still used to enforce the preferences of the minority. This second part looks at the reasoning underlying the ordinances and their enforcement.

All cities in the United States are enabled to pass and enforce laws under what is known as the police power. This power authorizes a city to create laws that are intended to protect public health, safety, welfare, or morals.

It is doubtful whether Madison’s vegetation ordinances achieve these ends, or even whether they were originally believed to do so. Like many cities, Madison has long banned tall grass on private property. But in 1978, Madison became the first US city to reverse this ban – at least partially.

In 1976, Madison had attempted to eliminate the ban on tall grass in yards, but the effort failed, due to the concerns of those who believed tall grass would attract rats and adversely affect property values. In 1978, a compromise was reached: Madison residents would be allowed to have tall grass in their yards as part of a mindful effort to be more environmentally responsible, while tall grass resulting from neglect of property would be banned. A permitting process would be used to distinguish between one and the other.

What is fascinating is that it was already well known at the time that tall grass does not attract rats, reduce property values, or cause other negative effects commonly attributed to it. This holds true whether the tall grass is part of a well-maintained prairie, or whether it is an overgrown lawn.

40 years later, the science has not changed. There is now even more evidence – including Madison’s own experience – that no harm of any kind results from tall grass. These facts are laid out in the city’s own publications on the topic. Yet, as the city considers eliminating the permit requirement and allowing tall grass as a matter of right, opponents of the change continue to raise the discredited issues of rats and property values.

It is thus not only true that banning tall grass does not contribute to public health and safety, but that Madison has known this for decades. Other vegetation-related ordinances that are still on the books suffer from a similar problem.

One example is the “vision triangle” ordinance, which bans tall plants near intersections, or near the juncture of a driveway and a sidewalk. The ostensible reason for this is that tall plants could interfere with visibility for motorists and pedestrians, leading to accidents.

However, there is little evidence that such a risk exists. Investigating traffic accident statistics shows that relatively few accidents are attributed to poor visibility – and within the list of causes of poor visibility, plants rank very low.

The leading cause of traffic accidents is driver distraction and driver error. Research suggests that plants actually ameliorate these hazards. A concept known as Attention Restoration Theory posits that nature – including plants, especially those growing in their natural forms – is so easy for our brains to process, that looking at it actually helps us recover from the fatigue caused by activities such as reading difficult materials and planning for the future. This boost to our mental energy increases our ability to pay attention and make good decisions. In other words, there is evidence that looking at plants makes us better, safer drivers.

Further evidence for this has been found in studies specifically looking at plants and driving behavior. For example, drivers travel more slowly along tree-lined streets. Motorists on highways bordered by wildflowers find it easier to pay attention than those driving on highways with mowed edges. And sections of freeway with forested medians were found to have no more accidents than sections of the same freeway where the median was landscaped with turf grass.

While it certainly may be the case that some specific plant in a vision triangle may be creating a hazard that outweighs the benefits, applying the vision triangle ordinance as a blanket rule is in fact likely to lead to reduced traffic safety. The ordinances need to be enforced intelligently in order to serve their intended purpose.

The third article in this series will tell the story of a resident who was prosecuted for a vision triangle violation, and question whether it was legal for the city to bring this case.

 

Postscript: On January 3, 2017, Madison officially adopted an update to the 1978 requirement that property owners obtain a permit to have tall grass in their yard. Now, in certain limited circumstances, tall grass will be allowed without a permit. An upcoming article in this series will review the new ordinances and question whether the change will make it easier to have an environmentally-friendly yard in Madison.

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It’s Time to Reform Landscape Ordinances – Part 1

It’s Time to Reform Landscape Ordinances – Part 1

By Janette Rosenbaum

In Madison, you cannot have any plants in your terrace within two feet of the street. You cannot have any plants along the bottom of your driveway that are more than two feet tall. And you cannot have a tree branch over the sidewalk, unless it is higher than seven feet (even on those occasional days when it is loaded with snow).

All of these situations are illegal under Madison’s city ordinances. Obviously, there are many violations of these ordinances in our neighborhoods. Because the city’s Department of Building Inspection (BI) does not have the resources to search for and prosecute them all, it relies on citizen reports to locate and address violations.

This report-driven process might work fine if most of the violations were true public safety hazards created by negligent property owners. However, this is not the case. In the several decades since these ordinances were passed, public opinion has increasingly turned away from manicured lawns and geometrical hedges. Instead, today’s Madison residents want a city filled with abundant vegetation.

This was demonstrated by the Schenk-Atwood-Starkweather-Yahara Neighborhood Association (SASYNA), located on the east side of the isthmus. During the summer of 2015, several members of the association surveyed the main street in their neighborhood, and found that 65 out of 91 houses — or 71% — were in violation of at least one of the ordinances.

Normally, when an ordinance is so out of step with public opinion, an understanding develops that the ordinance is no longer enforced – or, at least, is enforced only when the violation constitutes a true public safety hazard. But this is not the case in Madison either. Rather, the citizen-report process works as follows: Any Madison resident can use the complaint form to report a violation on private property in the city. They can do so anonymously, and they are not required to demonstrate that the violation is creating a safety hazard — or even to claim that this is the case. Thus, a resident can complain about a property because they simply do not like the vegetation… or because they simply do not like the owner of the property. There is very little risk of repercussion, and BI is virtually required to take the complainant’s side.

Abuse of the complaint system is not a hypothetical concern. Despite the SASY neighborhood’s overwhelming “vote” for more plants, last summer dozens of properties received complaints, possibly from a single resident. Although even a BI employee agreed that the anonymous complainant(s) just had “nothing better to do”, a number of the complainees were forced to remove gardens that they had worked hard on and enjoyed. Some spent months fighting legal battles to keep their favorite plants.

Many of these ordinances are currently being revised, and potentially will be eliminated. In the meantime, two reforms to the enforcement process would help to bring it in line with modern-day opinion, and protect Madison’s majority from the tyranny of the handful who still prefer rigidly-maintained vegetation.

First, BI employees should be trained to distinguish between a technical violation and a true public safety hazard. Second, complainants should be required to give their names when filling out the form, and could be asked to indicate whether they’ve attempted to resolve the safety problem — if indeed there is a safety problem — directly with their neighbor. These simple changes would limit abuse of the system, and would help to strike a balance between public safety and the ecological sustainability that residents clearly want.

An upcoming second part of this article will review why Madison’s vegetation ordinances exist, and whether they are achieving their purposes.

 

 

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EPA proposes the first chemical ban in 27 years–TCE

EPA proposes the first chemical ban in 27 years–TCE

From Environmental Defense Fund, by Jennifer McPartland, Ph.D., a Senior Scientist with the Health Program.

Today, EPA issued a proposed rule to ban uses of trichloroethylene (TCE) as a spot cleaning agent in dry cleaning and as an aerosol spray degreaser in commercial and consumer settings. This marks the first time in 27 years EPA is proposing to restrict the use of a chemical and represents a significant milestone under the Lautenberg Act.

The proposed ban is long overdue for a chemical that is highly toxic and produced in very high volumes (255 million pounds annually). TCE is classified as a known human carcinogen by numerous authoritative bodies, including the National Toxicology Program (NTP), the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR), EPA’s Integrated Risk Information System (IRIS), and the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC). Many studies of TCE also reveal additional health impacts including but not limited to immune toxicity, developmental toxicity (e.g., fetal cardiac defects), and neurotoxicity (e.g., Parkinson’s disease).

Read the rest here.

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What a Surprise!! More PCBs found in city-owned Kipp raingarden…

What a Surprise!! More PCBs found in city-owned Kipp raingarden…

Photo: Madison-Kipp raingarden in August 2014; behind it, Kipp was building a new curb and fence and paving parking lots, without the required approval and permits. MGE was digging around transformers, with dirt all over the parking lot, draining into the raingarden…

**********

Sadly, the long and convoluted saga of the Madison-Kipp raingarden–otherwise known as the Toxic Sludgegarden– is not yet over. See previous stories here and here and here.

This past summer, we asked city officials if they had tested for PCBs in the Kipp raingarden, which the company leases from the city. This testing was required by their city lease, signed in June 2015. Over a year later, in mid-October 2016 (in response to our repeated queries?) the city finally tested for PCBs in the raingarden. So the city lease was violated from June 2015 to June 2016, and city officials apparently didn’t mind. Would they have even tested if citizens didn’t ask about it?

On November 17, 2016 John Hausbeck from Public Health Madison Dane County (PHMDC) informed city and state officials that the October tests found 7 ppm (mg/kg) of PCBs in shallow soils about 18 inches from the stormwater pipe that drains into the raingarden from the Kipp site–see map and results. This level is nearly ten times above the allowed industrial “residual contaminant level” (RCL) that city and state officials agreed to use for this area (0.74 ppm)–and over 30 times the residential RCLs (0.22 ppm) that are more appropriate for this public area, which is zoned residential. The reasons government officials decided to use industrial standards for this area–and who actually made these decisions–are not clear (see below).[1]

Where did these PCBs come from since the last time the raingarden was tested—in May 2014? Perhaps this timeline and photos can provide some clues…

The city lease says that if contamination is found in the raingarden, “the Lessee” (which is Kipp) “shall also determine the source of the contamination…” Hausbeck speculated on the sources: “It is not clear where these PCBs have come from…All the samples were collected in the top one foot, so they should all represent clean topsoil.” He listed some possible sources. “They may have been carried by storm water into the rain garden from adjacent excavations, or come from contaminated sediment that entered the storm sewer pipe from breaks that were later fixed. Both of these potential sources were stopped last year and are no longer adding PCBs to the rain garden.” Was he referring to this pipe?

The “hotspot” found in October will be excavated at some point in the future, and further tests will be done. Will warning signs be placed along the bike path during excavations? Citizens asked that warning signs be placed along the path before and during past PCB excavations, so people could avoid the area if they wanted—and warn children not to play there—but the city refused, due to concerns about their legal liabilities. Neighbors posted their own signs, which were taken down the next day.

Why aren’t residential PCB standards being used? Did the DNR closure supercede the city lease? Who made these decisions?

Sadly, city and state officials have chosen not to err on the side of protecting the public in their decisions about what RCLs to use. Neighbors and other community members have argued repeatedly since the PCBs were discovered that the city should use the lower, more protective residential RCLs for the raingarden and the grassy area along the bike path, in line with DNR policy (again, see footnote 1). But apparently citizens’ input about how much toxic contamination should remain on public land does not matter to our government officials.

Oddly, in March 2015, Kipp and DNR agreed on residential standards for the area long the bike path, but something changed after that.[2] The DNR has leeway to ask for an even more stringent RCL for such areas—and some experts think that would be appropriate for this heavily-used public area next to a community center, a children’s splash pad, a compost area, and many homes (see footnotes).[3],[4]. The city, which owns the raingarden and bike path areas, also presumably has the authority to ask that a lower RCL be used.

In fact, Kipp’s final lease with the city says the following, on pg. 5:

“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… New contamination shall be defined as shallow soil sample results above the DNR residential direct contact standard (RCL) for PCBs.”    

Confusing matters further, as far as the city-owned Kipp driveway area next to the PCB-contaminated ditch along the bike path, the lease requires cleanup to residential standards in the future; it says on pg. 2: “WHEREAS, the DNR, the City and the Lessee have agreed that the Parking Improvements shall serve as an environmental cap throughout the remainder of the Lease term, and any further renewals or extensions thereof, and that upon the expiration or termination of the Lease the Lessee shall remove the Parking Improvements, remediate the contaminated soil to the DNR approved, site-specific, nonindustrial (residential) direct contact standard, and restore the Leased Premises as hereinafter provided, unless otherwise agreed to by the City and DNR.”

So why is the city only requiring cleanup to industrial standards in the raingarden and along the grassy areas next to the bike path? Was the change to industrial standards “agreed to by the City and DNR” in the months between when the lease was signed and the DNR closure was approved? Did the DNR closure of the raingarden and bike path areas supercede the city lease?

Three months ago, we asked city officials to explain this, but have not received a response.

Why was closure granted without testing? Why isn’t stormwater from Kipp tested?

In June 2016, after Kipp asked for “closure” for the raingarden and bikepath areas, I asked DNR officials Linda Hanefeld and Mike Schmoller how they knew the raingarden wasn’t re-contaminated since May 2014. They didn’t respond. The DNR South Central Closure Committee, which Hanefeld and Schmoller are both on, approved closure for the area in July 2016.

This sad saga raises many questions about city and DNR decisionmaking and whose interests they serve. Wouldn’t it have been a better idea to test raingarden soils after all the excavations were done, before leasing the area to Kipp, and before approving closure? Doesn’t it seem like common sense—as citizens have asked repeatedly for years, to no avail—to periodically test the stormwater draining from Kipp into the raingarden to make sure this water is not re-contaminating the soils there? Apparently, according to the “common sense” of city and state regulators, NO.

Shouldn’t the citizens our city, county, and state government officials serve have some say in these decisions?

[1] DNR NR 720 says “Responsible parties shall classify the land use of a site or facility as industrial if all of the following criteria are met: 1. The site or facility is currently zoned for, or otherwise officially designated for, industrial use. 2. More stringent non−industrial residual contaminant levels for soil are not necessary to protect public health on or off the site or facility. Note: Situations where a non−industrial classification would apply include site or facilities which could otherwise be classified as industrial, but where proximity to non−industrial land use, such as residential housing located across the street, makes a non−industrial classification more appropriate.” (emphasis added)

[2] A memo from Kipp’s consultant Arcadis to Schmoller dated March 13, 2015 said that the grassy area on city property along the bike path would be considered residential– and residential RCLs would be used.

[3]November 2014 USEPA – DNR agreement on PCB cleanup,” says “EPA may require a cover or a cleanup to more stringent cleanup levels than are otherwise required based on the proximity to areas such as residential dwellings, hospitals, schools, nursing homes, playgrounds, etc.” and “depending on the form or isomer of PCB, the RCL for non-industrial sites without a cover can be as low as 0.0000341 mg/kg.” City and state agencies should be requiring PCB congener testing, but they refuse to do so.

 

 

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City’s Priorities Out of Order; Citizens Punished for Doing the Right Thing (a new series)

City’s Priorities Out of Order; Citizens Punished for Doing the Right Thing (a new series)

Above: The city has prioritized replacing a paved segment of terrace with grass, over repairing a pothole where children slip on ice (see story below).

MEJO introduction to series:

City of Madison ordinances, or lack thereof, reflect the city’s priorities in regards to public and environmental health and safety. The city’s over-enforcement of some ordinances—while others are rampantly violated with no consequences—also says a lot about city priorities.

In our environmental justice work in Madison, we have learned that the city—in spite of years of citizen pressure to do so—will not improve its weak noise ordinance, largely due to business and industry resistance. The existing noise ordinance is regularly violated, with no consequences to violators; some are actually rewarded. An industry can spill high levels of PCBs along city bike paths, and the city has no obligation to notify path users of their presence. There’s no ordinance on that. So the city, or someone else, could spill toxic chemicals on the sidewalk in front of your house and the city has no legal obligation to notify you, your neighbors, or the public who use it. City pesticide and stormwater laws are rampantly violated, and the city looks the other way—a long story in itself. The list goes on…

Meanwhile, the city issues citations to some citizens for violating the city’s absurd and obsolete residential yard laws—while ignoring thousands of others who violate it. Below, we share another story by Janette Rosenbaum about over-enforcement of city ordinances and punishment of a resident who was just trying to do the right thing.

****************************

Resident Makes Repairs to Property, Asks City to Do Likewise – Ends Up Prosecuted

By Janette Rosenbaum

Bennett Ramage didn’t expect to be charged with violations of city ordinances for trying to improve his property.

Ramage bought a rundown home on Ravenswood Road, on Madison’s southwest side, about two and a half years ago. In short order, he set about making much-needed repairs.

A year into this to-do list, he contacted the city to report a low spot along the curb in front of his house. He had noticed that the dip in the pavement tended to fill with water, and that this was especially problematic in the winter, when kids walking to and from school slid on the ice while trying to cross the street

The city didn’t respond to Ramage’s request for repairs. Eventually, frustrated by the lack of action, Ramage asked his alder, Matt Phair, for help.

In mid-September of this year, city inspector Bill McGuin finally came to look at the problem. Ramage explained his concerns, but McGuin didn’t feel the icy patch was a hazard, and said the city would not fix it.

Ramage can hire a contractor himself to repair the pavement, McGuin said, and the city would pay some of the costs of the work. But, any contractor chosen by Ramage would need to be approved by the city before work could be done, and after the pavement is fixed, if an inspection finds that the work is not up to the city’s standards, Ramage would be responsible for re-fixing it.

Ramage was disappointed by the outcome of this meeting, but he was astonished when, a week later, he received a letter from McGuin citing him for violations of city building code. The letter listed several issues.

First, McGuin had noted that a fence Ramage had recently installed along his backyard was exceeding height limits. Ramage has fixed the problem, and is awaiting re-inspection.

Second, the letter stated that Ramage’s driveway does not meet current requirements. The driveway, which extends beyond the edge of the house, has terrace and curb in front of this extra portion, instead of a widened apron. The section of terrace in front of the driveway is paved instead of grassed (see photo below).

The city has prioritized replacing a paved segment of terrace with grass, over repairing a pothole where children slip on ice.

Ramage says all of that is left over from the previous homeowner, who did not disclose the violation when they sold the property, probably because they didn’t know their driveway was illegal. Ramage is working on breaking up the pavement in the terrace, and plans to seed the area with grass.

The issue of the driveway itself is more complicated. The extra width is legal if it leads to an 8×18 parking spot alongside the house, according to city ordinances. Adding the parking spot would require Ramage to move his fence, and install additional gravel or pavement.

Ramage also could tear up the nonconforming asphalt, but this would leave him with insufficient parking. He could park in the street, but said it would look bad and create a hazard, while the widened driveway doesn’t seem to be hurting anybody.

In investigating the issue, Ramage found that his driveway is legal if it was widened prior to 1993, when the current ordinance went into effect. The city agrees with this, but says it’s Ramage’s responsibility to prove the age of the driveway.

Ramage was able to contact the previous owner of the house, who says the driveway was widened in 1992. No photos have turned up, though, and the city may not accept a statement unsupported by documentary evidence.

The previous owner also told Ramage that the low spot in the street was originally caused by an overloaded city truck riding too close to the curb.

Ramage plans to pursue the grandfathering exemption for the driveway. If that fails, he says he’ll install the extra parking spot.

The amount of work Ramage has put into the property is obvious. The kitchen looks like new, and even the garage appears to have been redone. Ramage says neighbors have been happy to see the house getting needed repairs. No one had complained about the violations McGuin cited, nor has the city claimed that any of the violations were creating a public hazard.

Ramage doesn’t mind adding the city’s requests to his to-do list, but can’t believe the citations were issued in the first place, apparently as punishment for asking the city to fix a problem in the public street.

Addendum 1, November 19 2016: Following a re-inspection, the city agreed that Ramage’s fence and terrace are in compliance. However, the city did not accept a signed, notarized affidavit from the previous homeowner, stating that the driveway was at its current width since 1992, as evidence that the driveway qualifies for the grandfathering exemption. The city continues to demand that Ramage either narrow the driveway or add the legal parking spot, and that he submit a highly-detailed plan, which must be approved by the city before any work can begin. Ramage is now consulting with a real estate attorney to explore other options.

Addendum 2, December 30, 2016. Despite the aid of a real estate attorney, Ramage was unable to persuade the city to accept the notarized affidavit or otherwise resolve the issue with the driveway. Instead, he will be forced to spend thousands of dollars tearing up legal pavement that no one ever complained about.
“The city was completely unreasonable and unwilling to do anything for me,” said Ramage. “The lesson I learned here was to NEVER report anything to the city.”

***

Ramage is not the only Madison resident with a story like this. While citations are issued much too rarely to constitute consistent enforcement of the ordinances, they are issued often enough to look like a pattern of targeting specific residents – often those who, like Ramage, called attention to themselves by making a request of local officials. Calling out this behavior on the part of the city can lead to further harassment. One property owner who was targeted declined to talk to me, fearing retaliation by city inspectors.

Have a similar story to share? Contact jrosenbaum3@wisc.edu.

 

 

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Kipp CEO refuses to answer questions about how company is addressing risks to factory workers

Kipp CEO refuses to answer questions about how company is addressing risks to factory workers

This is a followup to a previous post.

A month ago I emailed John Hausbeck at Public Health Madison Dane County for help answering a set of questions about Kipp factory workers’ exposures to volatile organic chemicals (VOCs)—especially trichloroethylene (TCE), which is more toxic than perchloroethylene (PCE). I copied Kipp’s Health & Safety Coordinator, Alina Satkoski. My original email is included in the previous post, and below. For more information about TCE’s toxicity, see my original email below and here.

The questions I asked? 1. What has been done to assess VOC levels in the Kipp factory? 2. What is being done to protect workers from exposures to these chemicals? 3. Does Kipp still use TCE? If they stopped using it, when did they stop? 4. What solvents does Kipp use now?

After about a month, I received no answer from Mr. Hausbeck or Ms. Satkoski.

I asked again, and on October 16, Alder Rummel followed up, asking Ms. Satkoski to address the questions. Satkoski answered that they had assessed vapor intrusion in the office portion of the plant in 2014. I reminded Ms. Satkoski that I had asked about exposures to the factory workers—not just the office workers.

At this point, Kipp CEO Tony Koblinski inserted himself into the email chain. He refused to answer the questions I posed. He accused me of “twisting the truth” and said he is “done with me” but I can “write whatever the hell I want.” The full email chain is below. The response I emailed him is here.

Given Mr. Koblinski’s evasion of the questions, it seems logical to conclude that: Kipp has not assessed VOCs in the factory or VI risks to factory workers (only office workers); Kipp is not doing anything to protect factory workers from exposures to VOCs/vapor intrusion; Kipp still uses TCE and; Kipp is not willing to tell elected officials, the public health department, and the public what solvents it uses currently.

If Kipp has assessed vapor intrusion risks to its factory workers, wouldn’t it be to their benefit to say so? Similarly, if Kipp was no longer using TCE, would they want to tell us that? If Kipp is willing to share a list of the solvents they currently use—and has nothing to hide—why haven’t they done so?

Chain of emails (most recent first):

On 10/18/2016 6:07 PM, Tony Koblinski wrote:

Ms. Powell.

You are wrong.

Again, what a truly strange distribution list I find myself in.

This, I assure you, is the last time that I (or any of my staff) will respond directly to you, as your motives have baffled me since the day I met you.

Concern for our workers safety and well-being is the highest priority we have here at Kipp.  Our actions to safeguard our team result in benchmark safety and workers compensation rates.

I (like all small business owners) have plenty of regulatory oversight and I don’t feel a need to satisfy your curiosities.

You have already demonstrated to me your keen ability to twist the truth and distort the facts and frankly, I’m done with you.  (I think the exact moment was when you tried to give people the impression that Kipp was responsible for the tragic death of one of our long time employees who died of heart failure).

So, if you want to continue to play investigative reporter, have at it, but Kipp is not talking directly to you or cooperating in any way.

You continue to publish whatever the hell you want, and I will continue to run this business lawfully, responsibility and strive to continue to be a positive force in the surrounding community.

On Tue, Oct 18, 2016 at 2:51 PM, Maria Powell (MEJO) <mariapowell@mejo.us> wrote:

Mr. Koblinski:

To be clear, your unwillingness to answer my questions indicates that:

-Kipp has not assessed VOCs in the factory or VI risks to factory workers (only office workers).

-Kipp is not doing anything to protect factory workers from exposures to VOCs/vapor intrusion.

-Kipp still uses TCE.

-Kipp is not willing to tell elected officials, the public health department, and the public what solvents it uses currently.

If I am wrong, please do correct me.

Thanks! Maria

On 10/18/2016 2:29 PM, Tony Koblinski wrote:

All-

I am going to respectfully put an end to this email string.

The WDNR (as well as the EPA) have actively directed a comprehensive investigation of this site over the last several years.

We have spent millions of dollars testing and remediating the site with their oversight.

All pertinent information to the investigation is part of public record.

Tony Koblinski

On Tue, Oct 18, 2016 at 1:25 PM, Maria Powell (MEJO) <mariapowell@mejo.us> wrote:

Hello:

I already have the indoor office results and have had them for years. They indicate there could be problems, but there weren’t enough tests to really say.

However, to be clear, I didn’t ask about assessments in the office portions of Kipp. I asked about how vapor intrusion risks related to VOCs,** but especially TCE, were assessed  in the factory portion of the plant.

I also asked some other questions. Here are the questions I asked–copied from below:

1. What has been done to assess VOC levels in the Kipp factory? 2. What is being done to protect workers from exposures to these chemicals? 3. Does Kipp still use TCE? If they stopped using it, when did they stop? 4. What solvents does Kipp use now?

I hope you can answer them as soon as possible.

Thanks,

Maria

**To be clear “VOCs” include PCE and its breakdown products (TCE, DCE, VC) as well as a number of other volatile chemicals that are known to be under the Kipp factory in soils and groundwater.

On 10/18/2016 7:36 AM, Alina Satkoski wrote:

Hi Marsha,

We have completed indoor air sampling for TCE and other VOCs. This work was completed in 2013 and 2014 and the work is summarized in a Summary of Office Indoor Air Sampling Activities (February 2014) the MKC 2014 annual report. These reports are publicly available through the DNR’s website.

Thanks,

Alina

On Sun, Oct 16, 2016 at 7:57 PM, Rummel, Marsha <district6@cityofmadison.com> wrote:

Alina-

Can you help provide answers?

Thanks-

Marsha

From: Maria Powell (MEJO) <mariapowell@mejo.us> Sent: Thursday, October 13, 2016 10:07 AM To: Hausbeck, John Cc: Rummel, Marsha; Rep.Taylor@legis.wisconsin.gov; Alina Satkoski Subject: Re: Assessing risks to Kipp workers?

Hello John (and Alina): Attached is a 2014 EPA memo supporting what I said below. I am still awaiting your response to my questions. Thank you, Maria

On 9/19/2016 2:36 PM, Maria Powell (MEJO) wrote:

John: I and other community members are still concerned about chemical exposures to all Kipp factory workers, especially women who are or could become pregnant. As far as VOCs and exposures via vapor intrusion, TCE is of particular concern because it is more toxic than PCE–it is a carcinogen and also causes neurological, immune system, kidney, liver, reproductive, and developmental effects.  Many of the effects from fetal exposures may not show up until adulthood. Vapor intrusion RCLs for TCE are much lower than for PCE–see here.** Also, recently government risk assessors concluded that the weight of evidence indicates that TCE and/or its metabolites could cause cardiac defects in fetuses even if maternal exposure durations are short, one-time, and relatively low dose. 

Below my name, I pasted a summary from an EPA TCE risk assessment document re TCE and heart defects. You can find the IRIS info on TCE toxicity here and here.

We know Kipp used TCE as well as PCE at least into the 1980s. There are still high levels of it under the factory, along with many other toxic VOCs. PCE, of course, breaks down to TCE–so there is an endless source under the factory and in the plume beneath the larger neighborhood.

In light of the above, can you help us find out: 1. What has been done to assess VOC levels in the Kipp factory? 2. What is being done to protect workers from exposures to these chemicals? 3. Does Kipp still use TCE? If they stopped using it, when did they stop? 4. What solvents does Kipp use now? I copied Alina, since she certainly must know the answers to these questions.

Thank you,

Maria

**Workplace standards for PCE and TCE are thought by experts to be very inadequate and unprotective of workers’ health based on the science. Even Henry Nehls-Lowe agreed with this.

The below text is from EPA’s “TSCA Work Plan Chemical Risk Assessment,” EPA Document# 740‐R1‐4002, Environmental Protection Agency June 2014, Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention–see here.

2.7 HUMAN HEALTH RISK CHARACTERIZATION (I highlighted key sentence) TCE and its metabolites are associated with adverse effects on cardiac development based on a weight‐of‐evidence analysis of developmental studies from rats, humans and chickens. These adverse cardiac effects are deemed important for acute and chronic risk estimation for the scenarios and populations addressed in this risk assessment. The rationale for using TCE associated fetal cardiovascular lesions for acute scenario is based on the relatively short critical window of vulnerability in humans, rodent and avian cardiac development.The rationale for using fetal cardiac effects for chronic risks estimation is also based on the fact that relatively low dose short term/acute exposures can result on long‐term adverse consequences on cardiac development persisting into adulthood. ‐‐

Summary of Weight‐of‐Evidence Analysis for Congenital Heart Defects

TCE exposure has been associated with cardiac malformations in chick embryos studies (Boyer et al., 2000; Bross et al., 1983; Drake, V. et al., 2006; Drake, V. J. et al., 2006; Loeber et al., 1988; Mishima et al., 2006; Rufer et al., 2008) and oral developmental toxicity studies in rats (Dawson et al., 1990, 1993; Johnson et al., 2005; Johnson, 2014; Johnson et al., 2003). In addition to the consistency of the cardiac findings across different species, the incidence of congenital cardiac malformation has been duplicated in several studies from the same laboratory group and has been shown to be TCE‐related (EPA, 2011e). TCE metabolites have also induced cardiac defects in developmental oral toxicity studies (Epstein et al., 1992; Johnson et al., 1998a, 1998b; Smith et al., 1989, 1992). For example, the Johnson et al. and Smith et al. studies reported increased incidences of cardiac malformation following gestational TCA exposures (Johnson et al., 1998a, 1998b; Smith et al., 1989). Similarly, pregnant rats exhibited increased incidence of cardiac defects following DCA exposure during pregnancy (Epstein et al., 1992; Smith et al., 1992).

A number of studies have been conducted to elucidate the mode of action for TCE‐related cardiac teratogenicity. During early cardiac morphogenesis, outflow tract and atrioventricular endothelial cells differentiate into mesenchymal cells (EPA, 2011e). These mesenchymal cells have characteristics of smooth muscle‐like myofibroblasts and form endocardial cushion tissue, which is the primordia of septa and valves in the adult heart (EPA, 2011e). Many of the cardiac defects observed in humans and laboratory species involved septal and valvular structures (EPA, 2011e). Thus, a major research area has focused on the disruptions in cardiac valve formation in avian in ovo and in vitro studies following TCE treatment. These mechanistic studies have revealed TCE’s ability to alter the endothelial cushion development, which could be a possible mode of action underlying the cardiac defects involving septal and valvular morphogenesis in rodents and chickens (EPA, 2011e). These mechanistic data provide support to the plausibility of TCE‐related cardiac effects in humans (EPA, 2011e).

Other modes of actions may also be involved in the induction of cardiac malformation following TCE exposure. For example, studies have reported TCE‐related alterations in cellular Ca2+ fluxes during cardiac development (Caldwell et al., 2008; Collier et al., 2003; Selmin et al., 2008).

Alina Satkoski

Environmental and Safety Coordinator

Madison-Kipp Corporation

asatkoski@madison-kipp.com

Office: 608-242-5200

Cell: 518-265-7183

 

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City of Madison not requiring Kipp to measure PCBs in raingarden?

City of Madison not requiring Kipp to measure PCBs in raingarden?
This pictogram was used in this post; the splash pad has since been completed

 

Since August we have tried to get the following information from the City of Madison on behalf of Kipp neighbors, to no avail.

The current City lease with Madison-Kipp Corp. for its rain garden property calls for annual testing for PCBs. The lease was signed June 4, 2015, so the first year’s baseline test results should be available.

The lease also calls for a storm water management annual maintenance certification.

We have asked the city for the annual PCB results and maintenance certification, and have received no response. The only conclusion that we can reach is that the City has not required Kipp to test the rain garden for PCBs nor has Kipp filed its required storm water management annual maintenance certification.

The tests and certification are important because 1) they’re required in Kipp’s lease, 2) Kipp’s pollution goes into the raingarden, down storm drains, and into Starkweather Creek and Lake Monona, and 3) there’s no evidence that toxic chemicals from Kipp are not continuing to pollute the watershed, let alone the raingarden, bike path, and areas adjacent to both. See this link.

The City owns the land in question, so it is choosing not to require that pollution be monitored and controlled on our public land.

If you would like to see the City follow the law and its own contract, please contact Ald. Marsha Rummel at district6[at]cityofmadison.com to request that it does so. The City drives this process and so has the power to make it so.

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What is Kipp doing to protect its workers from vapor intrusion? They won’t say.

What is Kipp doing to protect its workers from vapor intrusion?  They won’t say.

Photo: Workers in Madison-Kipp factory.

Kipp says they stopped using the highly toxic solvent tetrachloroethylene, also called perchloroethylene or PCE—the toxic chemical that was the main focus of the citizen class action lawsuit settled in 2013 (see more details about the lawsuit here and here).

However, in addition to PCE, Kipp also used the even more toxic solvent trichloroethylene, or TCE. TCE is a carcinogen and can cause neurological, immune, kidney, liver, reproductive, and developmental effects. It can also cause cardiac defects in fetuses whose mothers are exposed for even very short periods of time during pregnancy. See links to more information below

Did Kipp ever stop using TCE? What solvents is the company using now? How is Kipp protecting its factory workers from exposures to solvents used in the factory—and to PCE, TCE and other volatile organic chemicals (VOCs) seeping into factory air from the huge VOC plume below it? Sadly, this is just one of the many health and safety risks faced by Kipp’s workers, many of whom are minorities—see past stories here and here.

Last week, I sent the message below to John Hausbeck at Public Health Madison Dane County and Kipp’s environmental health and safety manager, Alina Satkoski. I have received no response.

Given this lack of response, I am assuming that Kipp is still using TCE—and is doing very little or nothing to monitor and protect its workers from exposures to the many volatile organic chemicals seeping into the factory from below. If Kipp is not using TCE anymore—and has been monitoring and protecting its workers from VOC exposures—why wouldn’t their health and safety manager say so right away?

Below–email message sent to Public Health Madison Dane County and Kipp environmental health and safety manager, Alina Satkoski:

Subject: Assessing risks to Kipp workers?
Date: Mon, 19 Sep 2016 14:36:25 -0500
From: Maria Powell (MEJO) <mariapowell@mejo.us>
To: JHausbeck@publichealthmdc.com <JHausbeck@publichealthmdc.com>
CC: Rummel, Marsha <district6@cityofmadison.com>, Rep.Taylor@legis.wisconsin.gov <rep.taylor@legis.wisconsin.gov>, Alina Satkoski <asatkoski@madison-kipp.com>

John:

I and other community members are still concerned about chemical exposures to all Kipp factory workers, especially women who are or could become pregnant.

As far as VOCs and exposures via vapor intrusion, TCE is of particular concern because it is more toxic than PCE–it is a carcinogen and also causes neurological, immune system, kidney, liver, reproductive, and developmental effects.  Many of the effects from fetal exposures may not show up until adulthood. Vapor intrusion screening levels for TCE are much lower than for PCE–see here.** Also, recently government risk assessors concluded that the weight of evidence indicates that TCE and/or its metabolites could cause cardiac defects in fetuses even if maternal exposure durations are short, one-time, and relatively low dose.  Below my name, I pasted a summary from an EPA TCE risk assessment document re TCE and heart defects. You can find the IRIS info on TCE toxicity here and here.

We know Kipp used TCE as well as PCE at least into the 1980s. There are still high levels of it under the factory, along with many other toxic VOCs. PCE, of course, breaks down to TCE–so there is an endless source under the factory and in the plume beneath the larger neighborhood.

In light of the above, can you help us find out:

1. What has been done to assess VOC levels in the Kipp factory?

2. What is being done to protect workers from exposures to these chemicals?

3. Does Kipp still use TCE? If they stopped using it, when did they stop?

4. What solvents does Kipp use now?

I copied Alina, since she certainly must know the answers to these questions.

Thank you,

Maria

**Workplace standards for PCE and TCE are thought by experts to be very inadequate and unprotective of workers’ health based on the science. Even Henry Nehls-Lowe agreed with this.

The below text is from EPA’s “TSCA Work Plan Chemical Risk Assessment,” EPA Document# 740R14002, Environmental Protection Agency June 2014, Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention–see here.

2.7 HUMAN HEALTH RISK CHARACTERIZATION (I highlighted key sentence) TCE and its metabolites are associated with adverse effects on cardiac development based on a weight‐of‐evidence analysis of developmental studies from rats, humans and chickens. These adverse cardiac effects are deemed important for acute and chronic risk estimation for the scenarios and populations addressed in this risk assessment. The rationale for using TCE associated fetal cardiovascular lesions for acute scenario is based on the relatively short critical window of vulnerability in humans, rodent and avian cardiac development.The rationale for using fetal cardiac effects for chronic risks estimation is also based on the fact that relatively low dose short term/acute exposures can result on longterm adverse consequences on cardiac development persisting into adulthood.

‐‐ Summary of WeightofEvidence Analysis for Congenital Heart Defects TCE exposure has been associated with cardiac malformations in chick embryos studies (Boyer et al., 2000; Bross et al., 1983; Drake, V. et al., 2006; Drake, V. J. et al., 2006; Loeber et al., 1988; Mishima et al., 2006; Rufer et al., 2008) and oral developmental toxicity studies in rats (Dawson et al., 1990, 1993; Johnson et al., 2005; Johnson, 2014; Johnson et al., 2003). In addition to the consistency of the cardiac findings across different species, the incidence of congenital cardiac malformation has been duplicated in several studies from the same laboratory group and has been shown to be TCE‐related (EPA, 2011e). TCE metabolites have also induced cardiac defects in developmental oral toxicity studies (Epstein et al., 1992; Johnson et al., 1998a, 1998b; Smith et al., 1989, 1992). For example, the Johnson et al. and Smith et al. studies reported increased incidences of cardiac malformation following gestational TCA exposures (Johnson et al., 1998a, 1998b; Smith et al., 1989). Similarly, pregnant rats exhibited increased incidence of cardiac defects following DCA exposure during pregnancy (Epstein et al., 1992; Smith et al., 1992).

A number of studies have been conducted to elucidate the mode of action for TCE‐related cardiac teratogenicity. During early cardiac morphogenesis, outflow tract and atrioventricular endothelial cells differentiate into mesenchymal cells (EPA, 2011e). These mesenchymal cells have characteristics of smooth muscle‐like myofibroblasts and form endocardial cushion tissue, which is the primordia of septa and valves in the adult heart (EPA, 2011e). Many of the cardiac defects observed in humans and laboratory species involved septal and valvular structures (EPA, 2011e). Thus, a major research area has focused on the disruptions in cardiac valve formation in avian in ovo and in vitro studies following TCE treatment. These mechanistic studies have revealed TCE’s ability to alter the endothelial cushion development, which could be a possible mode of action underlying the cardiac defects involving septal and valvular morphogenesis in rodents and chickens (EPA, 2011e). These mechanistic data provide support to the plausibility of TCE‐related cardiac effects in humans (EPA, 2011e).

Other modes of actions may also be involved in the induction of cardiac malformation following TCE exposure. For example, studies have reported TCE‐related alterations in cellular Ca2+ fluxes during cardiac development (Caldwell et al., 2008; Collier et al., 2003; Selmin et al., 2008).

 

 

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