Our Story - The Struggle for a Clean Environment

By the early 1990's Atwood Avenue neighborhood residents in Madison, Wisconsin grew tired of the increase in the air pollution, noise, odors and hazardous materials in our neighborhood. Unsafe conditions are created by the Madison-Kipp aluminum foundry which is squeezed between our homes. It was a rare day when the noise and metallic, waxy, chlorine odors from this aluminum foundry did not trespass into someone's backyard. It was unbelievable that such an irresponsible environmental scofflaw was allowed to operate its business so close to our families.

Hundreds of complaints have been filed with the Madison Health Department and Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources. Countless hours have been spent by residents contacting government and company officials, attending public hearings, and trying to get Kipp to be a more responsible neighbor. After all the effort and complaints, Kipp - sadly aided by the very government agencies whose purpose is to protect our public health - continues to pollute our neighborhood. Kipp continues to violate air quality standards and the groundwater and soil in our neighborhood remains contaminated with Kipp spills of industrial chemicals.

Clean Air Madison was created to work for a cleaner environment in our neighborhood.

Madison-Kipp Stacks Seen from
            Capital City Trail Bike PathMadison-Kipp Aluminum
            Furnace Stacks Behind HomesMadison-Kipp Die Casting Stacks Seen from Waubesa
            Street Homes

Kipp Air Pollution Violations Continue

In 2007 Madison-Kipp completed a project to install tall stacks to disperse its air pollution. Short roof vents barely higher than surrounding homes were eliminated and 12 new stacks were installed. This project was required by the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources to finally correct violations of air quality standards in the residential areas adjacent to Kipp's aluminum foundry. The taller stacks reduced the metallic and waxy smells that for many, many years had permeated the surrounding neighborhood. Madison-Kipp Violations of Air Quality Standard for

The DNR had finally concluded that Kipp had been violating air quality standards, exposing neighborhood residents to unhealthly levels of air pollution. After this major project, no one at Kipp, the city health department or the DNR acknowledged to residents that the company and agencies had been wrong for so many years, and had failed miserably to address the hundreds of complaints from surrounding residents.

Despite many years of violations, no fines were leveled against Kipp and no company officials including its owner, Reed Coleman, were convicted. DNR staff first identified air standard violations near Kipp in 1994 but did nothing to correct them. How long these violations had been occurring is anyone's guess. Wisconsin law allows a maximum fine of $25,000 per day for violation of environmental laws. If held accountable, Kipp would be subject to over $118 million in fines.Instead the company pocketed the savings on air pollution control, while the surrounding neighborhood paid the cost in public health.

The story doesn't end there. During the many years neighbors waited for the air quality violations to be corrected, USEPA updated the national ambient air quality standards using new research on air pollution and health. The old and outdated 1971 standard allowed a particle concentration of 150 ug/m3. This was used to design the new Kipp stacks. In 2006 USEPA updated the safe concentration with a more protective standard of 35 ug/m3 for small particles or PM2.5. While Kipp had finally made improvements to comply with the old 1971 air quality standard, it is already in violation of the newest 2006 standard - an example of the old adage, "A day late and a dollar short."

To determine the height of the stacks needed to disperse Kipp's emissions, the DNR conducted a computer dispersion modeling analysis. Like operating 1000's of air quality monitors, this modeling analysis simulated the spread of Kipp's emissions throughout the neighborhood and predicted concentrations at surrounding homes and backyards. CAM obtained the DNR analysis and used it to determine Kipp's compliance with the current air quality standard for fine particles or PM2.5. The figure to the right shows the current extend of Kipp's violations of the air quality standard throughout our neighborhood. Before Kipp raised its stacks in 2007, a far greater area of the neighborhood exceeded the fine particle air quality standard. This may explain the hundreds of complaints filed with the city and state.

We know Kipp continues to violate current air quality standards for fine particles or PM2.5. However there continue to be unresolved questions about the chemicals released by Kipp's stacks. The aluminum melting furnaces and die casting operations at Kipp are known to generate toxic pollutants, but little if any testing has been conducted. The last test on the many die casting stacks was in 1994. Kipp reports emissions of chlorine and hydrogen chloride from its aluminum furnaces. Dioxins have also been measured from the furnace stacks. Soil sampling beneath exhaust vents on the building walls measured high concentrations of polyaromatic hydrocarbons (PAH) pollutants. Indoor sampling has measured polychorinated biphenyls (PCB). Dioxins, PAH and PCB are carcinogens.

Since the addition of the tall stacks in 2007, CAM successfully lobbied for a compliance inspection by EPA which found numerous violations by Kipp - violations missed by DNR staff. CAM has also continued to work with our state legislators to lobby Kipp, the city public health department, DNR and the federal EPA for testing of air pollution emissions from Kipp and compliance with current air standards.

CAM and neighborhood residents have found the cards are stacked against them in favor of Kipp's profits. Compliance with existing public health environmental regulations are not a priority, much less adopting new regulations that protect our neighborhood.

When will our neighborhood have a clean and healthly environment? When will Kipp be required to comply with environmental laws? When will Kipp move out of our residential neighborhood to a more suitable industrial park where it can do less harm?

If you would like to learn more about CAM's successful lawsuit stopping DNR approval of another 60 tons of air pollution from Kipp and current efforts to improve the air quality of our neighborhood, visit our Air Pollution page.

Soil and Groundwater Contamination a Legacy of Kipp's Chemical Solvent Dumping

In 1994, the DNR concluded that Madison-Kipp had been dumping perchloroethylene (PCE) solvent out the back door for many years. In its July 18, 1994 letter, the DNR ordered Kipp to being investigating an cleaning up its mess saying:

"It is important that an investigation begins at your site as soon as possible. The longer contamination is left in the environment, the farther it can spread and the more difficult and costly it becomes to cleanup."

Fast forward 17 years later. Kipp had dragged its feet with the assistance of the city health department and DNR who refused to enforce environmental laws. The PCE spills had spread into the surrounding soil and groundwater. PCE vapors were now entering surrounding homes. The contaminated plume had spread as far as city drinking well #8 located past Lowell Elementary School in Olbrich Park.

In 2011, seeing Kipp had failed miserably to clean up its mess and the DNR was unwilling to protect them, families living on Marquette Street filed a lawsuit in federal court against Kipp alleging that the company was the source of dangerous chemical contamination discovered at their homes. This RCRA lawsuit under the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act, resulted in an immediate acceleration of Kipp's efforts to investigate the extent of the contamination. Rather than continuing to keep the contamination secret, the DNR began holding public meetings and established a web site to post reports on the investigation and cleanup.

By 2013, rather to going to court where a judge would layout a specific plan for investigation and cleanup, Kipp settled with neighbors for $7.2 million dollars. Over 70 neighborhood homes were equipped with vapor extraction systems to assure that PCE vapors did not enter their homes. Kipp installed a pumping system to remove millions of gallons of groundwater each year, strip out the PCE, and flush the water into the Starkweather Creek.

If you would like to learn more about Kipp's solvent dumping, contamination of the neighborhood soil and groundwater, and continuing cleanup, visit our Groundwater page.

Hear, see
              and speak no evil monkeys It Takes a Village to Protect a Polluter

One of the saddest parts of the Madison-Kipp story is the ongoing failure of government and local organizations to protect our neighborhood. This factory could not exist without inadequate laws or the failure to enforce current laws. Kipp has no moral compass and has repeatedly taken advantage of the lack of oversight. Meanwhile, the mayor, district alder, common council, health department, state DNR, and many others have failed their responsibility to serve the people surrounding Kipp. Instead of supporting surrounding residents, they have lowered themselves to the Kipp's level.

One example is the city health department response to neighborhood health complaints in 2001 by releasing a report saying there was no cause for concern and Kipp complied with all environmental laws. In hind sight, we know Kipp:
    • Had been violating air quality standards and needed to raise its stacks in 2007 just to comply with the old air quality standard.
    • Had for nearly 20 years failed to cleanup its solvent dumping.
    • That over 70 homes needed ventilation systems to keep out solvent fumes.
    • That the backyard soil of homes were contaminated with poly aromatic hydrocarbons (PAH)  that needed to be replaced.
    • That the entire Kipp property and city land next to the Capital City Trail bike path was contaminated with polychlorinated biphenyls (PCB).
    • That Kipp was releasing PAH and PCB's through its numerous stacks. 
    • That Kipp's stormwater was contaminated with PCB's and discharging into Starkweather Creek and Lake Monona.
    • That the city noise ordinance was lax and outdated allowing Kipp to operate noisy fans all day and night.
In its 2015 "Review of Madison Kipp Environmental Activities - Revised", the health department cited this same faulty 2001 report as proof that Kipp's emissions were not a human health hazard, failing to mention all of the new environmental contamination and violations that been discovered since 2001.

A Weak City Noise Ordinance Continues to Protect Kipp and Fail Residents

It is no surprise that squeezing an aluminum die casting factory in the middle of a residential neighborhood creates noise problems. In 1980, Kipp opposed city efforts to adopt an ordinance to curb its factory noise and protect the neighborhood. As early as 1991, neighbors had asked Kipp to address its excessive noise, especially at night. Adding insult to injury, in 1995, Reed Coleman, Kipp's owner, wrote to neighborhood residents explaining plans to install a large ventilation system at the Atwood factory. Oily and waxy smelling die casting fumes that had been escaping out doors and windows into adjacent backyards would now be released through new vents on top of the roof. While providing a reduction in air pollution exposure to adjacent neighbors, the fumes would now be spread throughout the neighborhood. In addition, the new industrial fans were a new source of loud noise that could be heard blocks away both day and night. Responding to neighborhood complaints about the new noise generated by Kipp's fans, then Alder Judy Olson proposed that Madison update its archaic noise ordinance. It was not until 8 years later in 2003 that an updated noise ordinance was adopted. By this time, the ordinance had been watered down so much that Kipp was not required to make any improvements and the its noise pollution continued.

In 2007, residents met with then Mayor Dave Cieczlewich to discuss solutions to our Kipp problem including adoption of a new modern noise ordinance similar to other cities like Milwaukee. But the mayor, who considered himself an environmentalist, took no action to help our neighborhood. In 2010, residents met with city attorney Michael May and Building Inspection Director George Hank to discuss adoption of a modern noise ordinance. As explained in a neighborhood letter to Mayor C again asking for help with the Kipp problem, Hank's response was “wait until I retire”. In 2009, residents worked with Alder Marsha Rummel to amend the city lease with Kipp for property along the Capital City Trail bike path so lease payments of $5,000 per year could be used for noise abatement improvements. Kipp never used the noise abatement fund until 2016 when it installed a wooden fence. This decorative fence provided no reduction in noise from the roof top fans. Kipp convinced Mayor Paul Soglin to raid the noise abatement fund and provide $50,000 to pay it for the wooden fence. Residents met with city staff to stop the loss of noise reduction monies. Staff acknowledged the wooden fence did not reduce noise and Kipp had not obtained city approval as stated in the lease. However, the mayor was still able to illegally raid the fund and pay Kipp. Today, adoption of a modern noise ordinance, such as the 45 decibel limit for residential areas in Milwaukee, would require Kipp to quiet its fans or not operate at night. However, Adler Rummer has refused to propose a new ordinance and the city refuses to provide such a simple concession to the health and well being of surrounding residents.

The Sad, Polluted Story of the Goodman Community Center, Inc.

The struggle for a clean environment in our neighborhood had a major setback when the Atwood Community Center announced plans to become the Goodman Community Center, Inc. and relocate to the most polluted location in our neighborhood adjacent to Kipp. For years, the ACC had supported resident efforts to clean up Kipp and protect ourselves. Many CAM articles had been published in ACC's Eastside News and many meetings were held at the ACC. We thought we had a friend and supporter for our efforts to achieve a clean environment. But wanting to expand its business and needing millions of dollars, Goodman abandoned our neighborhood and sided with Kipp. By relocating to the polluted Iron Works industrial site adjacent to Kipp, Goodman sent a clear message that a clean environment was not important, the health and welfare of neighborhood residents were none of its concern, and Kipp's history of abusing surrounding residents did not matter.

It is difficult to understand how such an irresponsible decision was made to build a community center in such a polluted location. The property was contaminated with lead and PAH chemicals. Kipp's property was contaminated with PCE, PCB and PAH chemicals. Kipp's plume of PCE contaminated groundwater flowed underneath the Goodman site. Kipp's air pollution from aluminum die casting operations and metal furnaces blow directly over the Goodman site. The site was on the flight path of the main county airport runway where noise was a constant problem. The site was located next to an ungated railroad crossing where freight trains blew 105 decibels horns. Children and the elderly, especially those from low income families, are the most vulnerable to pollution. If Goodman intended to serve children and elderly, why did it build at such a polluted location?

To locate at such a polluted location, Goodman needed to abandon common sense and adopt the same disregard for a clean environment shown by Kipp. While one to four feet of contaminated soil was removed from the site and replaced with clean fill, approval to build on the contaminated property required DNR approval including a contract to not disturb the clean surface. It was soon apparent that Goodman did not take building on a contaminated industrial site seriously. In short order, Goodman had violated its contract and begun digging holes into the contaminated soil, neither taking precautions to avoid public exposure to dust or testing the soil to assure it could be safety disposed. By 2013, Kipp had reached a $7 million settlement with neighbors for its contamination due to PCE spills. By 2015, 70 homes were equipped with vapor extraction systems to keep PCE vapors from entering the house. Meanwhile, Goodman, located above some of the highest groundwater and soil vapor concentrations of PCE, refused to conduct any soil vapor tests. In 2016, Kipp continue to dig up PCB-contaminated soil along the Capital City bike trail and immediately adjacent to Goodman.

Overview of Recent CAM Activities to Achieve a Healthly Environment in Our Neighborhood

Coordinate with State representative Taylor to request that DNR remove a 2015 city health department memo that falsely concludes that Kipp is complying with air quality standards.
Follow Kipp investigation and cleanup of PCB contamination next to the Capital City Trail bike path and Goodman Center, provide comments to city and DNR staff and provide progress reports to neighbors.

Team with Midwest Environmental Advocates to contact USEPA Region 5 and ask them to require Kipp to comply with the current air quality standards for fine particles or PM2.5, and require Kipp to install upwind and downwind continuous air quality monitors.
Coordinate with State representative Taylor and Senator Risser to contact USEPA Region 5 and ask them to require Kipp to comply with the current air quality standards for fine particles or PM2.5.
Follow Kipp investigation and cleanup of PCB contaminated water and soils next to the Capital City Trail bike path and Goodman Center, provide comments to city and DNR staff and provide progress reports to neighbors.
Review the USEPA Region 5 settlement with Kipp for several years of violating its air pollution permit, then submit comments to Region 5 on its failure to protect neighborhood residents.
Review the Madison Water Utility evaluation of Kipp contamination of Well #8 based on the Jessica Meyer analysis of the Madison Kipp Contamination plume data.
Review city approval of Kipp's wastewater discharge from its GETS system to remove PCE contamination from groundwater.
Request the city require that Kipp update its storm water runoff pollution prevention plan to measure chemicals rather than simply conduct "visual inspections".
Provide a neighborhood resident with a noise monitor to measure Kipp fan noise levels to provide to city staff.

Meet with city staff to review proposed changes to the city lease with Kipp incorporating funds for noise reduction and cleanup of PCB contamination along the Capital City Trail bike path and Goodman Center.
Coordinate with State Representative Taylor to contact the DNR and request expedited renewal of Kipp's expire air pollution permit and compliance with current air quality standards.
Follow Kipp investigation and cleanup of PCB contaminated water and soils in the raingarden along the Capital City Trail bike path and Goodman Center.
Coordinate with State Representative Taylor to contact the DNR to correct false conclusions by the city health department that Kipp was complying with air quality standards.
Contact USEPA Region 5 to discuss the investigation and cleanup of PCB contamination under the Kipp buildings and exposure to the neighborhood residents.
Contact city staff to oppose city payments to Kipp for a wooden fence on its property boundary which was claimed by Kipp to provide "noise abatement" as required in lease changes negotiated by CAM.
Contact USEPA Region 5 staff with suggestions for measuring the air pollution from Kipp's stacks as part of the resolution of the EPA notice of violation.

Coordinated with state representative Taylor to contact the DNR and request they immediately begin the process of renewing Kipp's expired air pollution permit so the company would comply with current air quality standards.
Coordinated with state representative Taylor to contact the DNR and alert them to recent soil testing which showed exhaust vents were discharged polyaromatic hydrocarbons (PAH) and request the DNR require emissions testing.
Follow progress of the RCRA lawsuit by residents against Kipp for failure to cleanup its PCE dumping, post court documents including depositions to the CAM web site, and review new sampling results.

Coordinated with state representative Taylor to alert the DNR that Kipp emission reports showed the company had violated its air pollution permit.
Coordinated with state representative Taylor to contact the DNR and request they require emissions testing for the die casting stacks which had not been tested since 1994.


Contact USEPA Region 5 to arrange a surprise air pollution compliance inspection on January 12th. The inspection led to discovery of several years of air pollution permit violations, fines and testing of the aluminum furnace stacks.
Contact USEPA to report a violation of Kipp's air pollution permit based the emissions report its filed with the DNR for 2010.

Copyright ©2016 Clean Air Madison
Last updated: January 28, 2016