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Why “safe” levels of toxic chemicals may not be safe

Why “safe” levels of toxic chemicals may not be safe

“There’s no problem; toxic exposure is too low to cause any harm” is a common response by pubic officials when citizens raise concerns about toxins in the environment, such a PCBs or atrazine.

MEJO board member Kristine Mattis explains why this assurance may not be accurate in this article published at Counterpunch Online:

Toxic Curve Ball: Why Outdated Assumptions to Determine “Safe Levels” of To…

By now, a large number of consumers are aware of the hazards of the synthetic compound bisphenol-A (BPA). Effect… [MORE]

 

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Madison-Kipp Clean Air Act violations: MEJO response to Kipp CEO

Madison-Kipp Clean Air Act violations: MEJO response to Kipp CEO

Madison-Kipp Corp President/CEO Tony Koblinski responded to our post regarding the EPA consent decree for his company’s Clean Air Act violations. Here is our response:

Dear Mr. Koblinski: We offer the following responses to your comments in hopes of providing some clarity as to why we are dissatisfied with the resolution of the EPA’s Notice of Violation (NOV) to Madison-Kipp Corp.

Koblinski: “This NOV is not a new matter.  It was issued to us September 12, 2012.”  

MEJO Response: Right—these violations are not new. They go back many years. For more on Kipp’s air pollution issues since 1990, and the community’s struggle to address them, see here and here.

The EPA violations occurred from 2007 (and before) through at least 2013. Kipp’s lawyers negotiated with EPA for 2.5 years after the initial violation was sent to them on Sept. 12, 2012.

In 2008, a DNR air pollution compliance engineer notified Kipp that they were using the wrong emissions factors, underestimating the stack discharges and violating their permit. However, after this engineer passed away and another one was assigned, the DNR continued to allow Kipp to use the wrong emissions factors for years, even after the 2012 NOV from EPA was issued. In 2013, DNR found Kipp in full compliance with air regulations, even while the company was still using the wrong emissions factors. DNR South Central Air Management Supervisor Tom Roushar explained in fall 2013 (about a year after the EPA NOV was issued) that it was acceptable that Kipp continued to use the 2001 emissions factors through 2013 even though their permit specified that they should use the higher 2007 emissions factors. He felt that EPA’s allegations were unsubstantiated (though oddly, he claimed not to have seen the NOV).

Koblinski: “It does not allege that we violated our emissions limits, but rather that we did not have adequate controls on our data recording, emissions factors, record keeping, calibration and plant signage.  These are technical issues which we have taken very seriously, but at no time have we exceeded our permitted emissions limits.”  

MEJO Response: Kipp’s estimated levels of air emissions, a key basis on which agencies assess regulatory compliance, are almost entirely based on the company’s own data recording, records keeping, and/or the emission factors they use. Because Kipp kept bad (or no) records on important processes that affect emission levels, and/or used old, incorrect emissions factors, inaccurate emission estimates were reported to the DNR, EPA, and the public for over five years. These are not just minor “administrative” or “technical” issues.

In 2012, Representative Chris Taylor asked the DNR to require Kipp to measure the actual emissions from its stacks. The DNR responded by saying that the extensive recordkeeping required of Kipp was superior to testing emissions. Shortly thereafter, the EPA issued its notice of violation because Kipp was neither conducting its required recordkeeping nor filing correct reports.

Here’s one example of the consequences of using an incorrect emissions factor. Because Kipp used a 2001 emissions factor for chlorine that was 5.8 times lower than its 2007 permit required it to use, chlorine wasn’t reported at all on several air emissions inventories between 2007 and 2012 even though it should have been; incorrect chlorine emissions factors produced inaccurate chlorine emissions estimates that were lower than DNR reporting thresholds. Stack tests done in 2014 as part of the recent NOV showed that Kipp was emitting almost 12 times more chlorine than the 2001 emissions factor they used from 2007 to 2013 predicted they would emit.

Kipp also used 2001 emissions factors for dioxins through at least 2012, even though a more appropriate stack test in 2007 showed dioxin/furan emission levels orders of magnitude above the levels found in 2001 tests. Dioxins (and closely related compounds, called furans) are highly toxic at extremely minute levels—much, much more toxic than chlorine and even the tetrachoroethylene (PCE) Kipp workers dumped onto the ground for years. Even though Kipp stack tests in 2001, 2003, and 2007 showed that Kipp emitted dioxins/furans (and emissions factors increased with each test), none of Kipp’s air inventories have ever reported dioxin/furan emission levels, because using the old emissions factor kept the estimated emission levels under the DNR’s reporting limit. DNR was either oblivious to Kipp’s method of keeping their emission off the public air inventories, or decided that this was acceptable.

Kipp was also found in violation by EPA for not maintaining accurate records of its “Hazardous Air Pollutant” (HAP) emissions, which include a number of other highly toxic chemicals emitted from the factory.

Again, these record-keeping and reporting issues are not minor technical matters. Given the decades of community concerns about dioxins, chlorine, and other hazardous air pollutant emissions from Kipp, and hundreds of complaints to government agencies about strong chemical odors and health effects in the neighborhood, these reporting issues are very problematic, whether or not emission levels exceeded regulatory limits (which studies show, for many of the contaminants emitted Kipp, are too high to adequately protect public health).

Considering the discovery of extremely high levels of contaminants in soil and groundwater at Kipp, is it any surprise that Kipp did not maintain the records needed to show it complied with air pollution control laws? Pollutant levels reported to the DNR for air inventories are the only way citizens have to know what hazardous pollutants Kipp is emitting and at what levels. Kipp knows that and has worked hard to keep these chemicals off air inventories, in part, by using incorrect emissions factors. According to DNR, in 2007/2008, industries lobbied hard to not be required to report emissions below reporting limits (as they had been before). DNR allowed this.

Violations led to increases in actual emissions

Some of Kipp’s violations likely led to actual higher emissions of hazardous air pollutants, not just incorrect emissions estimates. The lubricant used to make aluminum castings is evaporated and partially burned, then exhausted through the roof. Rather than actually capturing and controlling the die lubricant emissions, diluting the die lubricant is the method required by DNR for reducing emissions from the die casting process. One of the EPA violations against Kipp was not diluting the die lubricants as much as required in its permit, resulting in higher VOC and other toxic emissions from die casting.

Other violations included not recording how much they diluted the die lubricant and/or not calibrating their die lubricant mixing equipment correctly—in other words, not following the emissions control method they are required by the permit to follow. These die casting violations are not minor technical issues. The “waxy/oily/burnt” and “metallic” smells neighbors have complained of for years are primarily die casting emissions. According to EPA, the top eight Toxic Release Inventory (TRI) air releases reported from aluminum die casting industries in the U.S. are: aluminum (fume or dust), trichloroethylene, tetrachloroethylene, zinc (fume or dust), copper, hexachloroethane, glycol ethers, and zinc compounds.

Actual emissions from Kipp’s die casting processes have been measured only sporadically and incompletely over the years inside the plant—and not for many years. In 1994, an OSHA inspector measured “oil mists” and “release agents” from die casting processes made up of metals and numerous organic compounds, including: aliphatic hydrocarbons, aliphatic alcohols, acetic acid, organic acids, butyrated hydroxyl toluene, long chain aromatic compounds, fatty acid methyl esters, propylene glycol, hydroxytriethylamine, methyl styrene, 1-2-2—methoxy-1-methyl-ethoxy-1-methylethoxy-2- propanol, and several “unidentified compounds.” The “condensate of mold release agent” contained “50% gray metallic flakes” made up of lead, aluminum, zinc, copper, and iron as well as “small particles, oily or greasy substances” and “brown particles.”

The 2001 “Madison Kipp Corp Exposure Assessment,” done by the Madison Public Health Department listed the following emissions measured above Kipp’s die casting machines in 1998: 1, 1, 1 trichloroethane, benzene, toluene, 1, 2 butadiene, hexane, ethanol, acetone, and several “unknown alkanes or alkenes.” Other reports and studies indicate that aluminum die casting emissions may also contain other very toxic chlorinated compounds such as chlorinated paraffins, PCBs, and dioxins/furans (as far as we know, these compounds have never been tested for in Kipp’s die casting emissions, inside the plant or from the stacks/vents).

During the 2011 inspection by EPA, the inspector noted “hazy air” in the die casting areas in both the Atwood and Fair Oaks facilities. This “haze” is the “oil mist” or die cast emissions, made up of many of the hazardous air pollutants listed above. Workers inhale this mist. It goes out open doors and windows and into roof vents and stacks uncontrolled. That’s why the odors are so strong in the neighborhood on some days. Again, Kipp has never characterized the chemical components of their die cast stack emissions or reported them to the DNR, nor has DNR required them to do so.

Prior to 1995, the “oily mist” from die casting was primarily vented through the doors and windows into adjacent backyards. At that time, after hundreds of neighborhood complaints, Kipp installed many roof vents sending the die casting fumes and the waxy odor further through the neighborhood. Only in 2007 did DNR recognize that Kipp was violating the 1971 air quality standards and required taller stacks rather than simple roof vents, in order to disperse the die casting emissions higher and further away. Current emissions factors for die casting are based on stack tests done in 1994 (that did not assess chemical components of the emissions).

Die casting emissions deposit on Kipp’s side walls and roofs, are washed off during rain/snow, and go into the storm drain system and eventually to the raingarden and/or Starkweather Creek and then Lake Monona. Kipp doesn’t test the chemicals in its stormwater runoff, so we don’t know what contaminants are going into the raingarden and the already highly impaired Starkweather Creek and Lake Monona.

Koblinski: “Under the direction of the EPA we completed new stack testing in May of 2014 and further verified that we operate within a fraction of our allowable emissions levels.”

MEJO Response: In the May 2014 EPA tests, the Atwood aluminum furnace stack emissions were tested for chlorine, hydrochloric acid, PM (particulate matter) and PM-10 (particulate matter ten microns or less in size). The Fair Oaks stacks were tested only for PM/PM-10. The smaller, more toxic components of particulate matter (PM 2.5) were not assessed at stacks from either facility. Dioxins/furans were not tested. Aluminum salts were not tested. No other hazardous pollutants were tested. Die casting emissions were not tested. Therefore, we have no idea whether Kipp was “within a fraction of allowable emission levels” for small particulates and many of the other hazardous air pollutants they emit.

The allowable emissions levels in Kipp’s expired air pollution permit are no basis to judge if the surrounding neighborhood is safe. The discharge limits were established to meet the old air quality standards. All the stacks on Kipp’s roof were designed to comply with the 1971 air standard for PM. The DNR’s own analysis shows current permit limits are not sufficient to comply with modern air quality standards for fine particles or PM2.5. Die casting emissions factors are over two decades old.

The community has asked repeatedly over the years that Kipp more completely characterize die casting emissions and update die casting emissions factors. Given that several of Kipp’s EPA violations had to do with issues that would affect die casting emissions, it is problematic that die casting emissions were not part of the stack testing done for the NOV. We don’t know why, but Kipp’s lawyers likely negotiated them out of the agreement if they were ever on the table for consideration. Further, originally the EPA planned to test dioxins/furans to resolve this Notice of Violation. However, Kipp’s legal team talked them out of doing dioxin/furan tests some time in 2014 (based on MEJO communications with EPA).

Koblinski: “I approached the Goodman Center to see if they had an energy efficiency project that I could help them with and ultimately agreed to pay $80,000 towards their needed chiller upgrade…”  

MEJO Response: We think improving energy efficiency is very important, but this Goodman Supplemental Environmental Project (SEP) does nothing to reduce exposures to Kipp’s toxic pollution (as described above) among the children who play at Goodman just feet from the factory. Also, it makes it even more likely that Goodman leaders will not raise any questions about Kipp’s pollution. Madison-Kipp, its wealthy owner Reed Coleman, and/or the several foundations to which Mr. Coleman funnels his wealth, have supported the Goodman Community Center with funding and other types of support since it was located next to Kipp and before that when it was the Atwood Community Center. This is one reason the Goodman Center leaders do not raise concerns about Kipp’s pollution, and dismiss or ridicule those in the community who do raise these concerns. The Goodman SEP is, in effect, more hush money to Goodman. What a boon for Kipp—congratulations!

Meanwhile, the SEPs Kipp agreed to didn’t consider in any way the concerns and suggestions of many people in the Kipp neighborhood for over two decades. Since the 1990s, hundreds of Kipp neighbors have asked for more monitoring, better emissions and noise controls, and a variety of other actions to reduce or eliminate the noise, odors, and toxic pollution from Kipp. In most cases, their concerns have been dismissed or ignored by Kipp (and DNR).  

Koblinski: “The violations indicated in the NOV did not “expose residents and children at the center to harmful pollutants” as they were administrative in nature and we have always operated well within the limits of our permits (in fact less than 4% of our total allowable).

MEJO Response: As outlined above, the violations were much more than just “administrative” and likely did result in higher emissions of some hazardous air pollutants, which continue to be emitted from the factory at unknown levels. Close neighbors of Kipp, including many children, and children playing at the Goodman Center, are among the most exposed and the most vulnerable to these hazardous pollutants released from stacks and vents just feet away from where they live and play.  

Koblinski: “The EPA did not make a “surprise, unannounced visit to our facility,” rather the inaccuracies in our reporting were discovered through the standard annual reporting that we do to the EPA and subsequent information exchanges throughout 2012.”

MEJO Response: This EPA document about the Jan. 12, 2011 inspection of Kipp describes the inspection as “unannounced.”  We don’t think EPA would lie about this.  

Koblinski: Lastly, I would use this opportunity to indicate that we are progressing well on a number of fronts as we take responsibility for the unintended environmental impacts caused over previous decades.  

I won’t list all of the actions taken and completed as those are documented through various reports submitted to the WDNR and posted to their site.  Work still ahead of us includes:

– Some additional soil remediation (removal) work remains to be done in the storm water ‘bio-basin’ (Rain Garden) and adjacent bike path.  

– We will be bringing the Ground water Extraction and Treatment System GETS on line later this month to pump and filter PCE impacted groundwater.

– We are working with WDNR and EPA to resolve remaining PCB issues under our plant.  

We will, of course, continue to regularly monitor and verify our network of wells and probes to ensure there is no risk to public health.  

MEJO Response: Please share with the neighborhood and public the most recent documents about these activities—especially those regarding the continued removal of PCB contamination from the raingarden/bike path and also under the factory. What work remains to be done and why? Please share any available data.

A representative from the Madison/Dane Co Board of Health recently reported to the Madison Committee on the Environment that all the PCBs at Kipp have been remediated. Obviously, this is incorrect. Recent documents about these activities are not posted on the DNR website. People in the neighborhood, and the public officials who serve them, need to know about ongoing remediation of highly toxic soils going on right in the middle of where they live, work, and play (children are playing at a splash pad just feet from these PCB remediations!).

Sincerely,  

Tony Koblinski

President/CEO

Madison-Kipp Corp.

tkoblinski@madison-kipp.com

MEJO Response: Thanks, Mr. Koblinski! Drop us an email any time if you have further questions or comments.

Sincerely,

MEJO

info@mejo.us


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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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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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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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Ignorance is Bliss (Part 2 Cont.)

A Note about the Industrial History of the Goodman and Kipp sites

According to Goodman’s 2008 closure documents, previous manufacturing activities at the Goodman Community Center property included metal cutting, welding, machining, sandblasting, and painting. Several underground and aboveground storage tanks for heating oil, diesel fuel, and gasoline, and lead battery storage, were located on the property. A railroad spur was located underneath the crane gantry. Soils on the Goodman Community Center site were tested numerous times as the property changed hands.

Not surprisingly, given the site’s past industrial uses, these tests showed several toxic metals (including arsenic and lead) and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) at levels orders of magnitude above the DNR’s residual contaminant level (RCL) standards for human contact. In one area lead in soil was 12,600 parts per million (ppm); soils in other areas had lead levels in the several hundreds and/or thousands of parts per million. The RCL for lead in soil is 50 ppm. Past testing showed that some soils and groundwater at Goodman also had elevated tetrachloroethylene (PCE) levels. Closure documents suggest that PCE in groundwater there is from Madison-Kipp Corporation; however, MEJO’s investigations indicate that past industries at Goodman may have also used PCE.

Most of the surface soils at the Goodman site were removed and/or capped before the site was developed, as the October 2012 article below describes. Goodman closure documents state that “contaminated soil at the site was removed to a depth to allow at least 1 foot of impervious paving materials or 2 feet of landscaping materials.”  Soils were not removed or capped at all in the area where the compost pile and chicken coops are currently (see Oct. 2012 article below). This area was highly contaminated with lead, arsenic, and PAHs.

The last time Goodman soils were tested was in 2007, before the site was remediated and re-developed. No testing was done after remediation excavation. DNR laws requiring testing of soils excavated on remediated sites are intended to assure that there is no remaining contamination and/or that no new contamination has been deposited since the last testing. Hopefully, given that children play on this property, and some food is grown there, little residual contamination remains. But wouldn’t it be best to be sure—in other words, to follow the laws requiring testing when excavating—than to just assume things are OK without any testing?

Of course, soils and groundwater at the adjacent Madison-Kipp Corp. property—only a few feet away from the Goodman Center property—are known to be highly contaminated with PCE, PCBs, several toxic metals, and numerous other contaminants. Kipp’s many air stacks emit chlorine, hydrogen chloride, dioxins, metals, volatile organic compounds, fine particulates, and more; these air pollutants are inhaled by people living and playing nearby, and deposit on soils surrounding the plant (including at Goodman). Goodman leaders knew about Kipp’s air emissions when they developed the center, but decided this pollution was not a significant concern for kids who use the center.

Did the DNR let the then community center leaders know about the spreading contaminant plume they had been documenting beneath Kipp (since 1994) when they purchased the property for the Goodman Center development? And, given everything that has happened since the site was developed, why isn’t the DNR demanding that Kipp test further to the north to see if the plume has traveled beneath the Goodman site? Why aren’t Goodman leaders asking DNR and Kipp to test to assure that the contaminant plume isn’t under their center—and vapors from this plume aren’t being released into the building?

MEJO’s investigations to date suggest that Madison-Kipp Corp. may be pressuring the DNR not to test too far to the north towards the Goodman property. Why? Is the DNR bowing to pressure from Kipp instead of doing the right thing and testing to make sure kids and others at Goodman are not exposed to toxic chemicals?

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NEXT IN SERIES: What about Kipp’s air pollution?

While the recent public focus has been on Kipp’s soil and groundwater contamination, there are just as many unanswered questions about how the substantial air pollution from Kipp’s facilities might affect vulnerable groups in the neighborhood—and everyone living and working nearby. Kipp’s air stacks emit fine particulate matter, several chlorinated compounds (including dioxin), heavy metals, and numerous other pollutants into the air around these facilities every day. Minority and low-income children at Lowell School and the Goodman Center are already at higher risk for asthma and respiratory problems, so they are even more vulnerable to exposure to these air contaminants.

Addressing questions about how Kipp Corporations’ air pollution affects people in the neighborhood is particularly relevant now, since Kipp just received a “Notice of Violation” on Sept. 4, 2012 from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), with implications related to their emissions of hazardous air pollutants, especially chlorinated compounds.

 

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MEJO Investigates: Contamination at Goodman – Remediation plan being followed?

MEJO Investigates: Contamination at Goodman – Remediation plan being followed?

The Goodman Community Center, behind Madison-Kipp Corp. on Waubesa Street, opened its doors in 2009 in a renovated factory with industrial use going back to the 1880s. In spite of concern from neighbors that offering programs for children a heavily industrial area was problematic, the Center purchased the property and went through an environmental remediation process that included a Contaminated Soil Cap Maintenance Plan prepared by BT2, Inc. This October 2008 document includes plans for annual inspections and maintenance, including a barrier inspection log to document any breaks in the “cap” and how they were addressed.

Further, in line with this maintenance plan, the formal DNR closure agreement letter for Goodman Center reads:

“If soil or waste material are excavated in the future, then pursuant to [applicable DNR statutes], the property owner…must sample and analyze the excavated material to determine if residual contamination remains. If sampling confirms that contamination is present, the property owner…will need to determine whether the material would be considered solid or hazardous waste and ensure that any storage, treatment or disposal is in compliance with applicable standards and rules. In addition, all current and future owners and occupants of the property need to be aware that excavation of the contaminated soil may pose in inhalation or other direct contact hazard and as a result special precautions may need to be taken to prevent a direct contact health threat to humans.”

Goodman began excavation for an expanded kitchen facility in September 2012. Did they get prior written approval from the DNR for this excavation, as required? Did they test the soil before digging? Let’s hope so. But an initial MEJO inquiry at the Center indicates that no testing has been done since the original remediation.

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