What Does Kipp Manufacture?

The Kipp Corp. is an old foundry and die-casting corporation with more than 600 employees. It presently manufactures primarily aluminum and zinc parts for the automotive and related industries. Kipp performs --on site-- all industrial operations to produce these parts. It melts millions of pounds a month of aluminum and zinc in at least four large industrial furnaces; it removes impurities from low-quality aluminum by chemical reaction, by injecting chlorine gas continuously into the melt; it die-casts parts in large die-casting machines (each with a closing pressure of up to 900 tons), and it finishes and polishes the parts with a variety of industrial processes.

Kipp's parts are sold to a number of multinational and very prosperous corporations, such as General Motors, Chrysler, Harley Davidson, and Volkswagen.

To learn about Madison-Kipp in their own words, visit their official web-site.

Where, When and How Does Kipp Operate?

The Madison-Kipp Corp., which has a Delaware corporate charter, is situated in the midst of the residential East Side of Madison, Wisconsin. Its original buildings, built in the nineteenth century and largely unimproved, are surrounded on three sides by longstanding residential streets: South Marquette Street, Waubesa Street, and Atwood Avenue. Many families live as close to Kipp as 30 to 70 feet.

The Madison-Kipp Corp. is family owned. Reed Coleman is its present controlling owner. Tom Caldwell is its present president and CEO. Over almost 8 decades of continuous operation, Kipp workers have never been represented by a union. Kipp management has strongly opposed unionization.

In the mid-1990s Kipp was permitted by the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources) and the City of Madison to expand dramatically and greatly intensify its operations; 1990s additions were built off Fair Oaks Avenue, on the formerly commercial (not industrial) site of the Madison Bus Barn (Madison's municipal bus company's main depot).

These new facilities, large prefabricated metal sheds, were, like Kipps' older facilities, built very close to surrounding houses. They were also built on ground that was contaminated with petroleum compounds; testing was not done until after a new building was put up, and Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources permitted Kipp to "bypass" the usually mandated clean-up process. Polluted air is vented from these sheds into the neighborhood at less than 20 feet from the ground.

The two facilities (old and new) are connected, and there is constant traffic between them, day and night. Although Kipp claimed classification as a "Minor" pollution source in 1989 (a Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources employee protested but was ignored), it is now classified as a "Major" source, and the Atwood and Fair Oaks operations are considered one facility.

Kipp operates 24 hours a day, approximately 300 days a year. The oldest Kipp building (built for another business, not for Kipp) is about 110 years old; the neighborhood surrounding Kipp has also existed since before 1900. The newest Kipp building is less than 7 years old.

Until the mid-1970s, when it began melting metal in on-premises furnaces, Kipp had its metal melted off its premises (far from the surrounding neighborhood) and brought in, where it was poured into die-cast machines much smaller than the present ones. Neighbors then seldom complained of metallic or chemical fumes.

In 1991, without prior Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources approval, Kipp modified one of its aluminum-melting furnaces to permit it to add chlorine gas on the EPA Extremely Hazardous Substances List, and the basis of the incredibly hazardous chemical compound dioxin to its huge "first melt" ("RCI") furnace to remove impurities.

In 1995 Kipp received a Notice of Violation from Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources for this and other violations; it also received several Letters of Noncompliance in 1994 and 1995. In mid-1997, Department of Natural Resources stated that Kipp was in "full compliance," against the protests of neighbors. Complaints of pollution and noise have been numerous and constant since 1990. Many neighbors have moved from the area to escape unhealthy industrial fumes and noise. Many also wonder why the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources has permitted heavy industry to expand at will, with exemptions from effective controls given to Kipp almost whenever they are requested, in the midst of a longstanding residential area.

What Are Kipp's Air Pollutants?

A large number of hazardous and toxic chemicals and metals are used in Kipps manufacturing processes, and most are exhausted virtually uncontrolled, some after intense heating or burning into the neighborhood adjacent to Kipp, from open bay doors and windows at ground level, from roof vents about 25 feet from the ground, and from stacks between about 15 and 60 feet high. Pollutants include chlorine gas and chlorinated compounds, sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxides, hydrogen sulfide, solvents including benzene and toluene, zinc, aluminum, copper, and other metals, and numerous other pollutants, possibly including dioxin, which neither Kipp nor Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources has ever tested for.

Soil and Water Contamination By Kipp

Kipp has also contaminated the neighborhood soil and groundwater. Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources and the City of Madison did not inform neighbors of this contamination, which was traced to Kipp in 1994, until it was exposed in 1999. Tetrachloroethene levels as high as 6.4 million micrograms per kilogram (ug/kg) in soil, and 2,600 micrograms per liter (mg/L) in groundwater, were found on Kipp property by Dames & Moore, Kipps consultant, in Department of Natural Resources-ordered tests. Numerous other chlorinated and other highly toxic compounds - many associated with solvents - were also discovered, yet neighbors, already under severe stress because of Kipps air pollution, were denied knowledge of this potential threat to their soil and drinking water.

Remediation efforts entailed injecting a counteragent into area soil more than 4 years after contamination was discovered. The effectiveness and completeness of this new remediation method are not yet known. Access to Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources Remediation files was obtained only after residents cited the Freedom of Information Act.

Those of us living in the neighborhood are worried about the daily exposure to these contaminants, even though the now highly politicized Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources says they are safe. We are told that Kipp comforts its workers by stating that exposure is calculated for the 8-hour day. Many of the people who live in the neighborhood, however, are exposed 24 hours a day, seven days a week, all year round. Moreover, the cumulative effects of some of these chemicals can lead to chronic or fatal diseases.

One of Kipp's Proposed "Pollution Solutions": Its "Air-Handling" System

In 1996, Kipp, with much fanfare, installed an air-ejection system which continuously and forcefully exhausted the entire air contents, more than 300,000 cubic feet a minute--of its oldest building unfiltered into the surrounding neighborhood through new vents in its roof. Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources "requested" that Kipp install filters in these roof vents at the time they were installed, but Kipp declined and Department of Natural Resources allowed the forced exhaust to be unfiltered.

Copyright ©2005 Clean Air Madison
Last updated: April 25, 2005