Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Wisconsin Residents Say Company's Efforts Are Too Little Too Late

By: Duane Craig

As far back as 1994, people living near the Madison Kipp Corporation in Madison, Wisc., have complained about health concerns such as eye/nose/throat irritation, metallic taste in the mouth, bronchial and asthma symptoms, headaches, nausea and stomach aches, according to this early report by an official of the Madison Department of Public Health.

Beginning in 1997, the department did a two-and-a-half-year study but found the symptomatic complaints didn't have the consistency necessary to warrant a health study in the community. Investigations into soil contamination around the Kipp property were started in the mid 1990s, and soil vapor sampling began in 2003.

In May 2011, residents near the plant found out that tetrachloroethylene, or PCE, that had been spilled in the past at the company's property was entering their homes as a vapor, according to this report in Madison Commons. A Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources hydrogeologist said the incidences were found in the 100 block of South Marquette Street. Three homes were involved, and they registered indoor air levels of the chemical totaling 1,080 parts per billion, 470 PPB and 305 PPB. PCE indoors at concentrations above 6 PPB is considered to be a problem.

Indoor PCE levels at problematic levels

Kipp used PCE to clean materials and products until 1987 and stored it in tanks outside. Those tanks were vented to the ground. The company has been working with the neighborhood to install filtration systems where needed, and in mid-October 2011, Kipp said it had a cleanup plan in mind that included in-home mitigation systems for any homes affected by PCE vapors. It was also considering setting up a soil vapor extraction system on its property to remove the vapors from contaminated groundwater, according to this report in According to this report in the Wisconsin State Journal, the company was also considering removing the soil from the yards of two homes that backup to the plant and adding clean backfill.

Some residents and one legislative state representative weren't happy with that and wanted all contaminated soil removed and replaced with clean soil. Residents wanted to know that in the very near future their children could play in their yards without facing the dangers of high levels of contamination.

In late October 2011, seven families sued Kipp for failing to clean up its contamination. They claim that contamination has devalued their properties, and they want some compensation for that. They also want the contaminants cleaned up for good, and they want Kipp to pay punitive damages for taking so long to deal with the issue.

In the meantime, Wisconsin's DNR referred the issues associated with the contamination to the state's justice department to enforce the deadlines for the cleanup.

Madison Kipp, located at 201 Waubesa St., makes precision machined components found in engines of all types and used for other applications such as the lawn and garden industry. The company also has other Madison operations at 2824 Atwood Ave., and 166 South Fair Oaks Ave. and Sun Prairie, Wisc. operations at 1655 Corporate Center Drive.

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