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Wisconsin settles longstanding Madison-Kipp pollution case with $350,000 fine

Source: Wisconsin State Journal, November 28, 2017
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The Wisconsin Department of Justice has settled a 2012 lawsuit it filed over soil and ground water pollution from the Madison-Kipp Corp. plant with a $350,000 fine.
The settlement also requires the company to provide financial assurances of up to $1.65 million related to remaining pollutants.
Dane County Circuit Judge Richard Niess signed the settlement document on Monday.
The state sued the aluminum die-casting company over PCBs and PCE under and around its Waubesa Street plant. Since then, the company has spent millions of dollars removing more than 50 tons of tainted soil and treating contaminated ground water, but the toxins remain in significant quantities.
PCE is the term used for tetrachloroethylene, an industrial grease-cutter that is a likely human carcinogen and is believed to cause other serious health problems. PCBs are polychlorinated biphenyls, a family of heat-resistant industrial lubricants that probably cause cancer in humans and a variety of other serious health effects in animals.
Madison-Kipp president and CEO Tony Koblinski didn’t respond to a request for comment. In the past, Koblinski has emphasized that the pollution occurred long ago before the dangers of those compounds were known.
In 2013, the company paid $7.2 million to settle lawsuits brought by neighbors after PCE spread from the plant and released vapors through the soil threatening adjacent homes.
Oil laced with PCBs was dumped in the parking lot to keep dust down. The toxins also escaped through a trench that ran the length of the factory floor.
PCE was in fumes that condensed in vents and escaped in liquid form.
The state’s lawsuit was filed at the request of the state Department of Natural Resources. Neighbors said they had complained about suspected pollution but little was done until the PCE lawsuits were filed in 2011.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency was involved in the investigation of PCBs found in very high concentrations as deep as 25 to 30 feet under the company’s Waubesa Street plant.
Madison-Kipp has argued that those contaminants could stay as long as the building remained as a cap to prevent rain water from filtering through soil and spreading the compounds.
The company has removed PCB-contaminated soil around the plant and investigated drainage systems that have carried the compounds to the bike path just north of the plant’s parking lot. The DNR has approved leaving lower concentrations the compound in the ground if they are covered with clean soil.
Madison-Kipp removed PCE-tainted soil from the yards of homes around the plant. It has removed PCBs from under the parking lot, along the adjacent bike path and in a nearby rain garden.
In efforts to halt the underground PCE plume, Madison-Kipp has been pumping out ground water, treating it and depositing 65,000 gallons a day into Starkweather Creek.
The Madison Water Utility has budgeted about $100,000 for a sentinel well to provide an early warning if the plume grows closer to a drinking water well at Olbrich Park.
The company’s air emissions have also drawn the government’s attention. Madison-Kipp complied with a 2015 EPA consent order that threatened a $37,500-per-day fine if it didn’t fix processes that led to inaccurate reports of air emissions for nearly five years. And the company has taken steps to avoid a repeat of a 2014 incident when moisture in a machine caused a 20-pound piece of molten aluminum to crash through the plant roof and land in a neighbor’s yard.
Neighbors recently began planning to install air monitors around the plant to measure fine-particle air pollution that is associated with serious lung and heart ailments. The state DNR doesn’t require close scrutiny of the particles around the plant and says overall state air quality meets standards.
This article will be updated.

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