Kipp Contamination Spreads to Neighborhood Basement

Several residents to the east of Madison-Kipp Corporation’s Waubesa plant were informed last week that there are elevated levels of contaminated soil vapors under their homes.

Contaminated soil can generate contaminated vapor in the soil that can then migrate into homes, according to Mike Schmoller, Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources hydrogeologist.

 The contaminated soil vapors, caused by the spilling of the chlorinated solvent tetrachlorethylene or PCE on the Kipp property in the past, were found under homes located on the 100 block of South Marquette Street in Madison’s Schenk-Atwood-Starkweather-Yahara neighborhood.

 “The soil contamination on the Kipp property has created these vapors and they’ve migrated to at least three of the homes we sampled,” said Schmoller.

When dealing with soil vapors the DNR uses guidelines of contamination levels to determine when there is a potential for problems inside the house, according to Schmoller.

“When we go out and sample sub slab [vapors] beneath the home, the guidance number we use to say there’s a potential problem indoors is six parts per billion for tetrachlorethylene,” said Schmoller.

Contamination levels of tetrachlorethylene found in the three homes already tested include 1080 parts per billion, 470 parts per billion and 305 parts per billion, according to Schmoller.

According to John Hausbeck, supervisor in the Environmental Health Division at Public Health Madison and Dane County, the contamination is not still going on but PCE doesn’t just go away.

The concern is whether or not the vapors are getting into homes and causing an “unacceptable health risk,” according to Henry Nehls-Lowe, unit supervisor with the Hazard and Exposure Assessment Unit of the Wisconsin Division of Public Health.

“Once [the contamination] is beneath the basement slab it can work its way up through cracks in the floor and migrate its way into the home, which is a health risk,” said Schmoller.

“There has been testing beneath three homes and elevated levels have been found beneath those homes,” said Nehls-Lowe.

According to Nehls-Lowe, in two of the homes, contamination was only found beneath the house but on one property contamination levels inside the home were right at the level where action is suggested to address the vapor concern.

“If the vapors are under the floor [but not found in the home] a filtration system is a precautionary measure we recommend,” said Nehls-Lowe. “The health issue is that tetrachlorethylene is a suspected human carcinogen.”

According to Schmoller, the soil testing done around the Kipp property was a natural progression in soil investigation that started in the mid-1990s and the sampling of soil vapors started in 2003.

“[The vapors have] probably been a problem for a while,” said Schmoller. “We’re just figuring out how big the problems are.”

Kipp used the PCE for cleaning their products and stored it in tanks on the east side of the property, according to Schmoller. There were also some vents to the outside of the building that may have contributed to the contamination.

“When you use [PCE] it is volatile so you have to vent it to the outside and there were some vents that vented to the ground outside,” said Schmoller.

According to Schmoller, five homes will get the filtration system and one home to the north and one to the south will be tested to determine if the contamination migrated to those properties.

“Typically vapor problems only go for 100 feet or so before it just peters out,” said Schmoller.

According to Schmoller, sub-slab depressurization systems will be installed to vent the vapors into the atmosphere from underneath the basement where they will break down or disperse into harmless emissions.

Madison-Kipp is working with neighbors to install filtration systems but did not respond to requests for comments.

[last updated: 05/05/2011 - 08:37]


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A history of problems from Kipp

Yes, it seems that Kipp has been acting irresponsibly for a long time. There has been no shortage of complaints about the air and noise pollution. Not surprising they have known about the groundwater contamination for 16 years or more and still haven't cleaned it up. They are a continued embarrassment to what is suppose to be an environmentally friendly city.

Cross Posted from Channel 3000

This place has issue for the longest time. At one time they got in trouble for not having their employees use the proper personal protective equipment and had some problems with toxins in the work environment. I worked with this company as a vendor for a job of mine and they seem to be willing to cut costs despite the ramifications to their employees. Now it appears they are overlooking safety again to save a buck.