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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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Editorial: On MLK Day, environmental justice deserves a key role

Editorial: On MLK Day, environmental justice deserves a key role

Editorial below from Environmental Health News (see MEJO’s articles related to environmental justice here)

In celebrating Martin Luther King, Jr.’s legacy, we have to keep environmental justice part of the civil rights movement

As people around the country celebrate the legacy of Martin Luther King Jr., there’s a Michigan community lacking the most basic of human rights: water.

The fallout continues in Flint, Michigan, as the city’s water is leaching lead from old pipes. The problem started when it switched from Detroit water to Flint River water, which corroded old, lead pipes and exposed children throughout the city to a dangerous toxic metal.

The media—local, national and international—are providing up-to-the-minute coverage of the emergency, but it’s too late for the city that was trying to reinvent itself.

Michigan State Police

It’s too late for the children, doomed to a life of learning problems.

It’s too late for parents who blame themselves for offering their child a cup of water before bed.

Flint—a city that is 56 percent black and has an estimated 40 percent of its people below the poverty level—is not alone. Every day millions of poor and minority communities in this country are disproportionately exposed to environmental contamination.

On this day of reflection, it is imperative that environmental justice remains at the forefront of the civil rights movement.

There are almost 12,000 stories in our news archive that deal with environmental justice issues. While our daily news aggregation is not meant to be exhaustive, this number is far too high.

You don’t have to go back far. Stories since the turn of the year include:

Federal officials announced a hearing on the problem of coal ash dumping in minority communities. Down the road from Flint, in southwest Detroit, the biggest polluter in one of the state’s most toxic zip codes wants to … wait for it … get a permit to pollute more. In Chicago, an investigation found that federal housing is leaving poor children at risk of lead poisoning. Native people in Alaska are struggling to maintain their culture and way of life in the face of climate change and rising sea levels.

Health remains at the core of these injustices, but it expands beyond that and connects to other key issues for the civil rights movement—police brutality, education and job opportunities.

Just look at Flint, where children see daily violence and deal with a broken school system.

Now they’ve been contaminated with a toxic that is linked to brain development problems, learning disabilities, low IQs and crime. Their uphill climb for a good education and well-paying jobs just got a little steeper.

For the police brutality link, look no further than one of the faces of the Black Lives Matter movement, Freddie Gray, a 25-year old black man who was killed last April while in custody of the Baltimore Police Department.

While Gray dealt with multiple issues throughout his life, his early childhood lead exposure certainly did him no favors.

It is past time that this country deals with its legacy of shifting the pollution burden to poor and minority communities.

Esther Calhoun of Uniontown, Alabama, and president of Black Belt Citizens for Health & Justice, said of coal ash pollution in her community: “No one thought that the members of this poor community would fight back or that anyone would listen to us.”

But many like Calhoun are fighting back—it’s time for state and federal officials to listen.

Michigan’s Department of Environmental Quality for months brushed aside community concerns about the Flint drinking water.

And an investigation last year from The Center for Public Integrity found that 95 percent of civil-rights violations claims are denied by the Environmental Protection Agency.

We can do better.

Martin Luther King Jr. urged civil rights leaders in his famous 1963 speech at the Lincoln Memorial to “demand the riches of freedom and the security of justice.”

In honoring him today we should all remember that freedom, justice and progress are best cultivated in a clean, healthy environment.

EHN welcomes republication of our stories, but we require that publications include the author’s name and Environmental Health News at the top of the piece, along with a link back to EHN’s version.

For questions or feedback about this piece, contact Brian Bienkowski at bbienkowski@ehn.org.

 

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EPA fines Madison-Kipp for air violations; Goodman Center gets A/C in the deal!

EPA fines Madison-Kipp for air violations; Goodman Center gets A/C in the deal!
[ABOVE] The view of Madison-Kipp Corp. from the Goodman Community Center; PCBs are being removed from the rain garden in the foreground

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has fined Madison-Kipp Corporation for Clean Air Act violations from 2007 through 2012. While it could have been fined $37,500  per day for each violation, Kipp got away with paying a $35,000 fine, and agreeing to install energy-efficient windows in its factory and to pay for new air conditioning at the adjacent Goodman Community Center!

That’s right: a community center gets new air conditioning because a factory repeatedly violated the Clean Air Act. [This is not an Onion headline!]

From the EPA Administrative Order: “On behalf of the Goodman Community Center, a not-for-profit organization located in Madison, Wisconsin….respondent [Kipp] must…provide funding to replace, in whole or in part, a faulty and inefficient tandem chiller with a more energy-efficient unit…Respondent must spend at least $80,000 towards this….”

So Clean Air Act violations occurred for five years, affecting the Atwood neighborhood, exposing residents and children at the center to harmful pollutants, and the “penalty” is air conditioning for the center. WTF!?!

All the while, the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources didn’t notice these Kipp air violations. If not for concerned residents asking for it, the EPA never would have made a surprise, unannounced visit to the Kipp factory and uncovered the problems.

The Clean Air Act violations agreements can be  can be found here:

EPA Administrative Order re: Madison-Kipp air violations (March 31, 2015)

EPA Administrative Order re: Madison-Kipp air violations (April 6, 2015)

 

 

 

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City to Lease Rain Garden to Polluter

City to Lease Rain Garden to Polluter

(High resolution version of above graphic here)

SUMMARY: The City of Madison wishes to extend a lease with Madison-Kipp Corp. through 2023 that will allow Kipp to control the rain garden it has polluted, continue to use part of the north parking lot (which it has also contaminated), and will give full credit towards its lease costs for a wooden fence that allegedly blocks sound. Meanwhile, people who live next to Kipp say that noise from the factory has been louder than ever, and often is the worst in the middle of the night. [1]

Given Kipp’s long history of polluting Starkweather Creek and Lake Monona through its unmonitored discharges into the City storm water drains (including one in the rain garden, where most of Kipp’s contaminated stormwater discharges are released), it’s curious that the City would now like to give Kipp control over this land.

DETAILS: The City of Madison has a long relationship with Madison-Kipp Corp. The city owns the land under the Kipp Fair Oaks factory and under the north parking lot at the Kipp Waubesa factory. Now the City wants to lease its heavily-polluted rain garden to Kipp for free (zero rent because of the full credit for the “sound blocking” fence).

Runoff from nearly the entire Kipp Waubesa factory property has been going into a City stormwater drain for many decades (a century?). In 2006, the City built the ill-fated rain garden where this pipe discharges, despite existing documentation of extensive PCE contamination throughout the Kipp site. This area was already leased to Kipp, so the City amended its lease, took back the land and gave Kipp a $900 lease credit. From the 2009 amended lease:

During the time of the recent construction of the new Goodman Community Center at 149 Waubesa Street, the City of Madison constructed a storm water management surface water retention facility adjacent to the East Rail Corridor Bike Path. The facility was constructed in a portion of the leased premises that the City leased to the Madison-Kipp Corporation (MKC) beginning in 1998. In order to correct the situation, it is necessary to amend the lease to remove that portion of the leased premises that the City reoccupied. The portion contains approximately 2,100 square feet and its removal equates to a permanent reduction of the annual rent of $900.

In 2012 and 2013, several toxic contaminants, including PCE, PCBs, PAHs and metals were discovered in rain garden soils (see the main graphic above here).  Soil PCB levels in some spots were many order of magnitude above DNR standards for direct contact. Several rounds of excavation have been done there, but the big question still remains: where did all this pollution come from?

MEJO has learned of a never-before disclosed Kipp factory drainage system that goes under the factory and leads to the stormwater drain and ditch (leading to Starkweather Creek, which eventually drains into Lake Monona). Historically, PCBs, PCEs, PAHs, dioxins, metals, and other unknown (unmeasured) chemicals from Kipp processes have flowed into this drainage system.

The City does not know the full extent of this drainage system and has not investigated what chemicals are currently draining into it from Kipp’s air vents/stacks and ongoing remediation projects–or what might be entering it from under the Kipp factory.

It has finally been made public that Kipp had a secret trench in its factory that drained into the City stormwater drain. EPA is now working to get Kipp to remediate the unbelievably high levels of PCBs under the factory. FYI: EPA still hasn’t settled with Kipp over its air pollution permit notice of violation. Perhaps the City should investigate the toxins going into the rain garden before it hands it over to Kipp.

City "rain garden" between Kipp and Goodman

City “rain garden” between Kipp and Goodman

Kipp has polluted this City land for a century (along with Kipp’s City-owned parking lot).  Why should the City allow Kipp to have control of public land that it has treated so badly?  Is there any evidence that Kipp can be a “good steward”of public lands? Since this land is adjacent to the City bike path and a community center, the City might be wise to keep control of it rather than allow a lessee with such a bad track record control it. Instead, this public rain garden will now become Kipp’s private property.And people who live along Waubesa and Marquette Streets, as well as those families who use the Goodman Community Center, not to mention the parents of all the children who will use the new splash pad next year (right next to the rain garden!), should know about this and have a chance to tell District 6 Alder Marsha Rummel and the City if they agree with the wisdom of giving Kipp control of more public land. There should be a public neighborhood meeting at the Goodman Center before the Madison City Council allows Kipp to lease the rain garden.

Addendum: The “sound blocking” wooden fence was supposed to be on the north boundary too (along the bike path, between Kipp and the Goodman Community Center. This wasn’t built. Here is the proposed location per the 2009 amended lease.

[1] Kipp and government agencies attribute this increased noise to the testing and construction of the groundwater remediation system. However, many people living on Marquette Street have been experiencing increased noises from Kipp since before this construction started. Also, the noise often goes all night long and people say they cannot sleep. Why does Kipp need to do this noisy work all night long?

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Where does the raingarden pipe originate? (Kipp Question # 3896? We’ve lost count…)

Where does the raingarden pipe originate? (Kipp Question # 3896? We’ve lost count…)

At long last, one MEJO question (unlike most we have asked, which remain unanswered) has been answered!! [1] Storm water runoff entering the pipe that empties into the raingarden originates at a storm drain in Kipp’s Waubesa/Atwood parking lot (see here and here; blow up to at least 200% to see map). After entering the storm drain in the corner of this parking lot, the water moves north, along the western edge of Kipp’s Atwood plant (behind all of homes on Waubesa) in an open concrete ditch and a concrete pipe beneath. The pipe then goes under the Kipp building. After going under the building, it gathers waste water from various drain pipes in Kipp’s facility and northern parking lot (including the pipe that for decades captured highly contaminated wastes from the former toxic waste “ditch” area; see story and maps here)—before it veers northeast and empties into the Kipp “raingarden” (aka Sludge Garden). As it travels behind the homes on Waubesa, it captures waste water and runoff coming off Kipp’s roof and pipes on the west side of the Kipp facility, which drip into an open concrete ditch with catchment drains emptying into the storm sewer pipe beneath the ditch. As the map depicts, here is a large “catch basin” right behind 233 Waubesa, just before the sewer pipe goes under the Kipp building.

[1] We won’t bore anyone with the long convoluted story about the rather ridiculous means we had to resort to in order to get a specific answer to this question…

Of course, this one answer raises even more “unanswered questions” Here are some from MEJO and the community:

How deep is this storm drain?? When was it built? What has drained/dumped/leaked into it over the years? What drains into it now? In what condition is it? (e.g., how leaky is it?)

Did the DNR first obtain this 1994 storm sewer map from Kipp on June 16, 2014 (after MEJO asked repeatedly where the raingarden pipe came from)? Did they really not know about the route of this storm sewer drain before?

Why don’t any of the Arcadis reports to date depict this the full length of this storm sewer? (many reports don’t show it at all)

Why doesn’t Kipp have a more recent storm sewer map? Why doesn’t DNR ask them for one? Why did DNR not share this (or a more recent storm sewer map, if they have one) with MEJO, given that our repeated questions about the raingarden pipe’s origins led DNR to ask Kipp for the map in the first place? (MEJO eventually found the map in an open records request). What do they not want MEJO and the public to know?

Did DNR ever share this map with other agencies (DHS, PHMDC, EPA, city engineering) involved in assessing the PCB contamination in the backyards of the Waubesa St homes, Kipp raingarden contamination, and/or other Kipp pollution issues?

Could this storm drain have anything to do with the PCBs found in the backyards of the Waubesa homes (excavated May 20-June 27, 2013)?

Did the PCB contaminated soils in the backyards on Waubesa Street and along Kipp’s western edge wash down into the open ditch and storm drain into the raingarden before, during, and/or after excavation? (PCB contaminated soils from the Waubesa excavation were piled on the north parking lot for a while, which also drains into the raingarden).

If DNR knew about the route of this storm drain before June 2014 (e.g., before/during the investigations/excavations of the PCBs in the yards on Waubesa Street), why don’t any of the reports on the PCB investigations on Waubesa St, which include numerous maps of this area, depict it or mention it in any way?

Where were the PCB “base” and “wall” data points in Arcadis PCB reports relative to this storm drain, the catchment basins, etc?

Could the large catchment basin behind 233 Waubesa depicted in the Arcadis map be related to the relatively higher levels of PCBs found right about at that spot?

Why does the 1994 map not depict the sanitary sewer lateral that runs in between 253 and 257 Waubesa Street—see this map. Was this sanitary lateral built later? When? Might this lateral have anything to do with the higher levels of PCE vapor found in 253 Waubesa and 257 Waubesa St. homes (subslab vapor levels in these homes were much higher than other homes on Waubesa)?

There are many more questions….please send yours to info@mejo.us and we’ll add them.

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According to DNR’s strange math, Kipp’s PCE plume has reached or passed Well 8, but has not made it to Lake Monona…What?

According to DNR’s strange math, Kipp’s PCE plume has reached or passed Well 8, but has not made it to Lake Monona…What?

Recent updates from DNR and PHMDC (see most recent one here) on the ongoing Kipp pollution nightmare are full of careless errors, misleading statements, and critical omissions. Citizens deserve better from their public servants in government agencies.

As we wrote in our previous post, the PHMDC “evaluation” of Goodman Center splash pad health risks included incorrect “residual contaminant level” (RCL) numbers as well as other miscalculations.

DNR updates also include errors and problematic claims. Here’s one example. Answering the question posed by the community, “Will Lake Monona be affected by MKC’s groundwater contamination, since it is moving south?” DNR responded:

Before the full system of groundwater monitoring wells was in place to collect data concerning the tetrachloroethene (PCE) plume, this question was unable to be answered. Now that a volume of data has been produced by the 16 wells surrounding MKC, an analysis can be done to determine the fate of the contaminated plume of groundwater. It is believed PCE from the Kipp facility has been in the environment for approximately 40 years; the plume has stabilized. Since the regional hydraulic gradient for the deep aquifer does run southeast, the plume has extended an estimated 1,900 feet towards Lake Monona. However, because it appears the plume has stabilized, there will be no danger of it reaching Lake Monona, which is still approximately 800 feet away. Arcadis’ evaluation of the PCE plume can be accessed here.

These statements are nonsensical—here’s why:

-DNR says “It is believed PCE from the Kipp facility has been in the environment for approximately 40 years.” (DNR doesn’t say who “believes” this.) Yet countless DNR and Kipp documents say that Kipp started using PCE in the 1940s—and it is well-documented that PCE and numerous other chemicals, most of which are highly persistent in the environment, were purposely dumped from, emitted from vents, and/or spilled and leaked from the facility since then. Do the math. If Kipp started using PCE in the 40s, their PCE and its breakdown products have been “in the environment” (soil, groundwater, air, plants, fish, wildlife, people) for somewhere between 65-74 years, not 40 years.

-The DNR statement above says the plume “has extended an estimated 1900 feet towards Lake Monona.” On pg. 2 the Arcadis evaluation of the PCE plume cited says that “Municipal Unit Well 8 (Unit Well 8) is located approximately 1,400 feet southeast of the site.” Again, do the math. DNR’s statement suggests that the plume has reached or even passed Well 8 (depending on where you measure from).[1] Though many suspect that the plume reached and passed Well 8 a long time ago, this is likely not what the DNR intended to say, given that they and Kipp have stated repeatedly in recent updates that the plume has not reached Well 8. (Why doesn’t PCE show up in well tests? More on that in a future story…).

-Based on the numbers in the DNR update, Lake Monona is about 2700 feet away from Kipp measuring on a line to the southeast (going through Well 8).[2] The lake is approximately 1734 feet from the Kipp property edge on a line to the southeast going through Well 8. Even if one measures from the center of the Kipp site, the lake is not 2700 feet away.

-There is insufficient evidence to say that the plume has “stabilized.”[3] The edges of the plume have not yet been defined. Kipp’s consultants’ evaluation of the plume (link above), claiming that it has “stabilized,” uses a problematic methodology and is still under evaluation by independent experts. The Arcadis analysis has not been accepted by the Madison Water Utility as the final word on the plume.[4]

-Lake Monona is only 1550 feet from the Kipp measuring along a straight line south from Kipp’s property line. Numerous Kipp consultant documents going back to the 1990s say the shallow and intermediate depth groundwater was traveling south as well as southeast. Given the rate of travel in surface and groundwater, PCE and other contaminants would have made it to the lake by now.

-Though assessing “preferential pathways” such as storm and sewer drains by which PCE and other toxic contaminants could have spread over decades in many directions from Kipp should be one of the first steps in developing a conceptual site model (CSM)—and is among the most critical components of a CSM—DNR and Kipp have never done so (as far as we know, and we have asked repeatedly). There are many storm and sanitary sewer drains all over Kipp leading out in every direction (see here and here).

It is well documented that Kipp put PCE wastes down storm and sewer drains for decades—well into the 1990s and likely later. Contaminated soils and other materials being excavated all around the Kipp site, including some that are contaminated with PCBs and PCEs, are still going down storm drains. Some storm drains from Kipp empty into Starkweather Creek, which drains into Lake Monona. Others go to the south/southeast and empty directly into Lake Monona. Sanitary sewer drains, which send water to the Madison Metropolitan Sewerage District, usually leak sooner or later. Sanitary sewer drains leading out from Kipp most likely leached PCE into soils and groundwater all along their pathways, including several going towards Lake Monona.

In sum, it is scientifically unfounded to state that “there is no danger” of the PCE plume reaching Lake Monona. In fact, based on the available science, it is likely that PCE and other toxic chemicals from Kipp made it to Lake Monona a long time ago via surface water and sediments, as well as via groundwater. People who eat fish from Lake Monona, including many subsistence anglers, have likely been eating Kipp’s pollution for a long time.

Sadly, since the DNR and Kipp have repeatedly refused to assess preferential pathways, and refused to test groundwater directly to the south of Kipp, we will never have any data to show whether or not that is the case.  Obviously, Kipp and the DNR do not want to know the truth about this—and most definitely do not want citizens to know.

To be continued…

[1] Even if the distance is being calculated from the purported center of the plume in the northern parking lot, 1900 feet would put the plume about at Well 8.

[2] Again, even if the distance is calculated from the center of the plume, this number is way too high.

[3] Note that even the DNR can only say “it appears” the plume has stabilized

[4] Kipp obviously has a strong bias towards concluding that the plume has stabilized and will not reach the lake. Why would the DNR indicate to the public that Kipp’s consultant’s analysis of the plume is unbiased and conclusive science—and is the final word? Who does the DNR work for—Madison Kipp or the citizens of Wisconsin? Sadly, it appears to be the former.

 

 

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PHMDC Assures Public Goodman Splash Pad is Perfectly Safe Using Incorrect Numbers

PHMDC Assures Public Goodman Splash Pad is Perfectly Safe Using Incorrect Numbers

(After this story was posted, PHMDC corrected their numbers in the document linked to below)

On August 26 the Wisconsin DNR released a public update including an “Evaluation of the Potential Health Concerns Associated with the Construction of the Goodman Center Splash Pad” by Public Health Madison Dane County (PHMDC).

Unfortunately, the “Residual Contaminant Level” (RCL) table in the document is riddled with incorrect numbers and miscalculations. The RCLs listed are outdated and even some of the old numbers are incorrect (or have mixed up units–e.g., the old RCL for benzo(a)pyrene was .0088 mg/kg, not 8.8 mg/kg; other RCL numbers are also incorrect). Numbers in the “estimated increase in disease risk” column are miscalculated.

The table shows that contaminants levels found in soils at the Goodman Center were large orders of magnitude higher than DNR direct contact soil RCLs, but PHMDC concludes that “patrons of the water activity”—in other words, “small children”—will not be exposed to contaminated soils, dust, and sediment during “normal operation” of the splash pad. What about when the splash pad isn’t operating “normally?” What might “abnormal operation” of the splash pad entail? The document also asserts that the splash pad water tank, buried in contaminated soil and at times submerged in groundwater, will be “impermeable.” What?!?! Everybody knows that underground storage tanks always leak, sooner or later….

To be continued…

 

 

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Neighbors Settle for $7.2 Million But Many Kipp Environmental Injustices Still Not Addressed

The immediate neighbors around the Madison-Kipp Corp. factory settled their two class action lawsuits on Monday, July 15. The immediate neighbors and their attorneys will receive a total of $7.2 million and there will be additional pollution remediation at those plaintiffs’ properties. The $4.6 million federal court settlement can be found here; the $2.6 million state court settlement will be posted later.

Meanwhile, Kipp continues to pollute; nothing about its operations has changed and existing PCE plumes and PCB problems continue to affect children of color and the elderly at the Goodman Community Center (a neighbor that did not join the class action lawsuit), as well as Lowell Elementary School,  adjacent businesses, a wide swath of the surrounding Atwood neighborhood, a water well and Lake Monona.

A partial list of ongoing concerns:

  • The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency continues to negotiate with Madison-Kipp about the EPA Notice of Violation issued last fall regarding serious air pollution violations involving chlorine, dioxin, and other hazardous air pollution emissions.
  • The PCB remediation around Kipp continues (will DNR ever test for dioxin, a contaminant found in PCBs)? Dioxins are among the most toxic chemicals ever studied
  • Preferential pathways for PCE contamination (utility corridors, sewers, storm drains) were never addressed at Kipp. So the full extent of shallow contamination offsite is unknown–which means the full extent of vapor intrusion in homes and businesses around Kipp is also unknown.
  • The extent of the PCE plume still isn’t fully defined; How deep is it? How far north does it go? How far south? Has it reached the lake?
  • Children at the Goodman Community Center are building raised-bed gardens about 50 feet from the most contaminated area at Kipp
  • High levels of contamination sit right under Goodman’s Ironworks Café. Nobody has assessed the depth of this contamination and whether it is causing vapor intrusion in the café. Why not?
  • The Wisconsin Department of Justice lawsuit regarding PCBs is still active
  • The Madison Water Utility is still unsure if it can use Well 8, down plume from Kipp’s PCE contamination and next to Lake Monona in Olbrich Park

To date, no public agencies nor elected officials have addressed–or even mentioned in reams of reports to date–pollution exposures to children at the Goodman Community Center and Lowell Elementary School. Are they completely unaware of what environmental justice means?

When will this change?

 

 

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Kipp’s PCE contamination under–and past–Lowell School?

Kipp’s PCE plume on its way to drinking water well and Lake Monona

At the May 28 Madison Water Utility Board meeting, staff reported the following (from the minutes):

Madison Kipp Corporation/UW #8 Sentinel Well:

“Groundwater at the Madison-Kipp Corporation (MKC) facility continues to be monitored for VOCs. A new monitoring well (MW-25) was recently installed at the intersection of Ludington Avenue and Center Avenue, approximately 600 feet northwest of Unit Well 8. Preliminary sampling indicates low levels (1.6 ug-3.3 ug/l) of tetrachloroethylene (PCE) exist at a depth of 100-130 feet below the surface here. It appears that the edge of the PCE plume has reached this location. Conformational sampling has been conducted at this location and the pending result will be used to verify the presence and concentration of this compound. The installation of the sentinel well, proposed to be installed adjacent to Elmside Circle Park, remains on hold.”

In other words, the Kipp contaminant plume is under [and past] Lowell School. The phrase “the edge of the PCE plume has reached this location” implies that PCE just got there, but it is very likely the plume reached past Lowell School years ago [hence various breakdown products of PCE present in Well 8, which is past the school in Olbrich Park at the shore of Lake Monona.

Kipp should also pay for additional monitoring wells to the south and in the direction of Olbrich Park to determine the extent of its PCE plume in that direction. Who knows how many other homes and businesses have PCE under them?

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Ignorance is Bliss (Part 2)

Forgot to follow Wisconsin pollution laws? No worries, DNR doesn’t mind

In a previous article (below and here), MEJO explored whether the Goodman Community Center, built on a contaminated former industrial site, followed DNR statutory requirements they agreed to follow when excavating on the site after remediation. The DNR confirmed in Januray 2013 that the Goodman Center did not follow relevant laws. Will the DNR cite them for ignoring these laws? No. Apparently, following DNR laws is optional.

To recap: According to an Oct. 24, 2008 letter from the DNR, when doing any excavation on contaminated areas that have been capped—which includes most of the site—Goodman Center owners are required by DNR statutes to:

Sample and analyze excavated material to determine if residual contamination remains (or assume that it is contaminated and manage it accordingly)

  • If sampling confirms that contamination is present the property owner, determine whether the material would be considered solid or hazardous waste
  • Assure the all current and future owners and occupants of the property are aware that excavation of contaminated soil may pose an inhalation or other direct contact hazard and take special precautions during excavation activities to prevent health threats to humans
  • Keep an up-to-date maintenance plan and inspection log on-site regarding the contamination cap and/or barrier and make it available to all interested parties
  • Worker (in hard hat, bending over) working below grade at Goodman Center (October 2012)

Under “Prohibited Activities,” the 2008 DNR letter states that the following activities require prior written approval from the DNR:

Removal of the existing barrier;

Replacement with another barrier;

Excavating or grading of the land surface;

Filling on capped or paved areas;

Plowing for agricultural cultivation; or

Construction or placement of a building or other structure.

In 2008, when the Goodman Center property purchase was finalized, Goodman leaders signed documents agreeing to follow these laws, intended to protect people at and near the center from exposures to contaminants. MEJO’s review of DNR files revealed no documentation that they have followed these requirements for any of the several projects done on the property since 2008, including some excavations in fall 2012. Did they sign these closure agreements just for show?

Dumpster full of soil excavated from the Goodman site. Where did it go? Was it contaminated? Should it go to an hazarsous landfill? We’ll never know. (October 2012)

After numerous inquiries from MEJO, the DNR site manager for the Goodman site finally confirmed this month that Goodman Center leaders did not notify him prior to the start of their September 2012 excavation projects (nor earlier excavation projects, presumably, since there were no documents for those either). The Goodman executive director talked to the DNR about the statutes they are required to follow—but not till two months after the projects were completed and MEJO asked several times to see the required documents (which neither Goodman nor the DNR were able to produce). By that point, the soil had been hauled away to landfills without required contaminant testing. Clearly the DNR did not review any soil testing results nor issue approval letters before these projects were initiated, as the law requires.

Will the Goodman Center be cited—or reprimanded in any way—for violating DNR laws it agreed to follow? No. The DNR site manager assured us that everything was fine because “Based on our discussion the work crews who did the excavation were familiar with the site conditions and knew of the contaminated soil and the restrictions associated with managing the soils.” Moreover, the site manager concluded, he does “not consider this a significant issue, particularly since the work || crew knew they could potentially encounter contaminated material and the site had a cap that needed to be restored.”[1]

Maybe these workers “knew of the contaminated soil and the restrictions associated with managing the soils.” Maybe not. We’ll never know. However, if they did know of these statutory restrictions, why didn’t they follow them? And, isn’t it Goodman Center’s responsibility—not the workers’ responsibility—to make sure relevant DNR laws for the site are followed?

Goodman Excavation3| | Workers excavating and sweeping up afterwards. Did they know they were digging up contaminated soil? We hope so…| |

Goodman Excavation4

We hope these workers did in fact know they might encounter contaminated material, especially since one of the areas excavated was where the highest levels of PCE were found on the site during pre-closure testing. Clouds of dust were visible as workers excavated and swept up the site. But without testing the soil first, as legally required, how could they know whether or not the soil they were digging and breathing was contaminated and at what levels?

Further, contaminated site requirements are about much more than protecting the workers excavating the soil for relatively brief periods of time. What about center employees, café customers and, most importantly, the children using the center—especially those children playing 50 feet or less away from the excavation?  Apparently, neither DNR nor the Goodman Center is concerned that there was no testing of the soil before excavation and disposal, and that no information was provided to employees, customers or users. The DNR does not mind that the Center did not take required precautions to prevent contaminant exposures to children and others. 1

It seems, sadly, that despite statutes intended to protect the environment and public health, in practice, responsible parties such as Goodman Center (and the large polluting industry next door, Madison-Kipp Corp.) can ignore these laws and DNR project managers have wide discretionary powers on whether or not to enforce violations.[2]

Some may argue that the infraction at Goodman Community Center, a relatively small contaminated site, is inconsequential. We strongly disagree. Wisconsin DNR laws for contaminated and remediated sites such as the Goodman Center are intended to prevent unintentional and potentially harmful exposures to toxins among people at and near these sites—especially the most vulnerable people. Preventing such exposures is especially important at Goodman Center, which serves many low income children, children of color, and the elderly, and is surrounded by schools, daycare providers, and a neighborhood with many children and seniors.

Goodman Garden and Chicken CoopBecause Goodman Center leaders did not follow laws they agreed to follow when they built the center, we do not know whether the soil excavated from the center’s property (which likely reflects levels of contamination in soil that is still there now) was contaminated, or to what degree.[3] We do not know if contaminated dust from the excavations settled on gardens and compost piles at the center. We do not know whether Goodman Center employees, people in the Ironworks Café, or children playing a few feet away inhaled contaminated dust as workers excavated soil—or what they will be exposed to over the longer-term as this dust is disturbed and re-circulated into air and onto surfaces.

Food pantry bread and produce out during adjacent excavation–free for the taking (October 2012)

Last but not least, this unfortunate situation poses broader questions. If Goodman Center andMadison-Kipp Corporation can blatantly ignore DNR laws and get away with it, how many other industries in Madison and throughout Wisconsin are allowed to as well? How many laws is Kraft Oscar Mayer ignoring? Madison Gas and Electric? When global corporations dig new mines in northern Wisconsin, will they violate or ignore DNR laws? If they do, can we really trust the Wisconsin DNR to do anything about it?

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[1] If this project was intended to “restore the cap,” this is the first we’ve been told that, even though we asked numerous questions related to this for months prior to this statement. If it true that this project was intended in part to restore the contaminant cap, this poses further questions. If the cap was broken–how long was it broken, and did damage to the cap increase potential exposures to children and others near that area? Why didn’t the DNR or Goodman Center provide copies of the Maintenance Plan they are required to keep on-site and up-to-date “in order to maintain the integrity of the paved surfaces, landscaped areas and/or the building?” (Contaminated Soil Cap Maintenance Plan, Goodman Community Center, October 2008).

[2] DNR officials were not able to point to any legal documents explicitly allowing the use of such discretion in this case—or any guidelines for discretion regarding excavation at remediated sites (e.g., amounts of soil excavated below which requirements do not need to be followed).

[3] Goodman’s closure documents state that some chlorinated contaminants (e.g., PCE) beneath the Goodman property are from Madison-Kipp Corp. Perhaps this is why the DNR does not measure soils and vapors at the center despite its close proximity to Kipp? Perhaps Madison-Kipp does not want anyone to open that can of worms?

MEJO Ignorance is Bliss Part 2

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