“Shocking” Levels of Contaminants Found at Madison-Kipp in Recent Tests


“Shocking” Levels of Contaminants Found at Madison-Kipp in Recent Tests

Recent tests at Madison-Kipp Corporation reveal “shocking” levels of PCEs in groundwater beneath the factory and offsite, according to Dr. Lorne G. Everett, an international hydrogeology expert and key witness in the RCRA civil lawsuit brought by neighbors against Kipp. Everett, who has worked with hundreds of contaminated sites worldwide, concluded that Madison-Kipp is “one of the most contaminated sites that I’ve ever worked with.”

In his deposition for the case, Dr. Everett also shared grave concerns about high levels of polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) recently found, stressing that PCBs pose the highest risk of all the compounds tested at Kipp to date. Soil samples just a few feet under Kipp, for instance, had PCB levels as high as 10,000 and 20,000 mg/kg—many thousands of times above U.S. EPA industrial direct contact levels. PCBs were also found at levels well above enforcement standards in some groundwater wells under the plant. “Madison-Kipp will have a deed restriction on their property forever…there is going to be a high source of a very toxic material at this facility forever,” Dr. Everett predicts, because PCBs are extremely difficult to remediate. (Everett Dep. 46)

Dr. Everett’s strong statements about the seriousness of Kipp’s pollution’s effects on Kipp workers and neighbors, as well as the surrounding community, follow from his December Kipp report—and parallel concerns raised by MEJO and Clean Air Madison (CAM) for many years.

Further, these shocking new findings, from monitoring wells tests by Kipp’s consultant ARCADIS, reiterate questions about the actions—or lack thereof—of the government agencies we rely on to protect public and environmental health. “Why did Madison, Dane County and Wisconsin government agencies not act on these serious contamination issues many years ago?” asks Dr. Maria Powell, MEJO President.  “Extremely high levels of chlorinated compounds, including PCE and its breakdown products TCE and vinyl chloride, have been documented in soils and groundwater under the Kipp site since 1994, yet agencies have only begun taking strong actions to monitor and remediate this pollution in the last year, after being prompted by the lawsuit.”

Also, Dr. Powell notes, “MEJO forced Kipp’s groundwater contamination issues into the public arena in early 2011 after they were kept quiet by Kipp and our government for over a decade.” Early that year, MEJO researchers obtained Kipp groundwater reports from the DNR, shared them with the neighborhood, and contacted media, elected officials, and government agencies. News stories in local papers and television stations followed.

Yet public agency officials repeatedly discounted most of MEJO’s questions about the extremely high levels of groundwater contaminants found under Kipp. In early February 2012, MEJO representatives met with city, county, and state agency officials to discuss our questions about the Kipp situation. “Among other things, we asked why a conceptual site model had never been developed for the Kipp site, and whether PCBs and dioxins (which are known to be emitted from Kipp’s stacks) had been tested in Kipp’s soils and groundwater.”

“Agency representatives didn’t feel that testing for these compounds was merited nor did they think it was possible for PCBs to get into groundwater,” Powell recalls. “They didn’t seem aware of the use of PCBs at Kipp, though it was documented in DNR files dating back to the 1980s.” Just a few weeks after this meeting, in March 2012, PCBs were found in soils at Kipp.   As recently as summer 2012, even the Madison Water Utility repeatedly discounted citizens’ concerns about Kipp contaminants getting into Well 8; in the summer of 2012, the utility decided to pump the well full-time because of the severe drought—despite calls from the SASY Neighborhood Association that it be turned off completely to prevent drawing in Kipp contaminants more quickly.

New data from wells off the Kipp property show that City of Madison Engineering maps of the contaminant plumes have greatly underestimated the depth and size of the plume. A new well on the north side of Goodman Community Center, for example, shows 3,600 ug/L of PCE, while the city engineering map predicted levels of 5 ug/L. Injection wells and other methods to control the plume, Dr. Everett says, will have to be done far to the north of Kipp, which will be “expensive and very controversial.” (Everett Dep. 55)

Notably, Dr. Everett also raised serious concerns about the people who have been perhaps most at risk for decades—Kipp workers. MEJO and other citizens have raised questions about the Kipp workers many times over the years, but have been assured by Kipp representatives that their workers are very healthy, though no legitimate exposure assessments or health studies have ever been done. To date, local and state government agencies have been largely silent on the risks to Kipp workers, who are not unionized. “Over a year ago when the Kipp contamination went public, I contacted the Wisconsin OSHA Consultation Program to see if they had assessed worker exposures,” said Dr. Powell. “I never received a response.”

Everett was scathing in his review of analyses done to date by ARCADIS, Kipp’s consultants, which largely downplay or discount risks to the people living right next to Kipp. “To conclude that there’s no risk to the immediate neighbors to this facility is unconscionable.”

Immediate neighbors of Madison-Kipp aren’t the only ones who will pay for Madison-Kipp’s pollution and government agencies’ inaction. “I think this groundwater resource is damaged for the foreseeable future,” says Dr. Everett. (Everett Dep. 57) “And who will pay for this? All Madison citizens,” notes Powell.

Dr. Lorne G. Everett Deposition:

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