by Hannah McClung
J401 Spring ’11
When Sharon Helmus moved back into her childhood home she never realized she would be continuing a battle her mother had been fighting since they built the home in 1940.
Helmus, now 72, lives on that same quiet street that dead-ends at the bike path in the Schenk-Atwood-Starkweather-Yahara neighborhood. The street, South Marquette Street, is a thoroughfare for bike traffic, a playground for nearby children and a neighbor to Madison Kipp Corporation.
Kipp’s factory operates around the clock fabricating metal products and sits among homes and between two main neighborhood arteries, Atwood Avenue and the bike path. SASY neighbors have been battling the industrial presence of Kipp in the neighborhood for over 20 years and nearby neighbors continue to voice their concerns.
“I understand this is a mixed-use neighborhood but their fans don’t need to run after supper,” said Helmus who is concerned about the amount of noise pollution during the second- and third-shift hours.
Madison noise ordinances are some of the weakest in the nation, according to Steve Klafka, who has been living in the area for over 25 years and continues to bring up neighborhood concerns about Kipp to city officials.
“Whenever we have gotten close enough to the ‘powers that be’ to talk about [our concerns] the answer we get is that Kipp is grandfathered in because they have been here so long,” Rachel Roang, SASY neighbor for 15 years and member of Clean Air Madison, said in an email.
“[Kipp’s] not a neighborhood business, which is probably why they’re not good to us,” said Klafka.
According to Helmus, Kipp has never been a good neighbor.
“If they have a spill or are doing construction work they should knock on doors and tell us. When they don’t, that’s not being very neighborly,” said Helmus.
Roang is concerned about the particulate and chemicals coming out of Kipp’s smoke stacks and blowing directly into her backyard.
“I smell pollution in my house and have to put on an air filter system,” said Roang.
“They’re too close to homes to be mixing chemicals and polluting,” said Helmus. “They’re taking advantage of the neighborhood.”
Neighbors all over Madison’s near East Side have expressed concerns over Kipp’s pollution levels but one of Kipp’s closest neighbors does not see the factory’s presence in the neighborhood as a problem.
When the Atwood Community Center, now the Goodman Community Center, decided to move to a new location for expansion in 2008 neighbors were surprised when they relocated directly behind the Kipp factory.
“I was pretty blown away that the Goodman Center was going to have all those kids right next to Kipp,” said Roang.
According to Kristin Groth, development and communications director at the Goodman Community Center, when considering locations for the new building the community center came to the conclusion that there are no risks with being located behind Kipp and that children using the facilities are safe.
“Kipp has been a great neighbor,” said Groth. “They have complied with all of the government air quality regulations, so for us we couldn’t not choose to be here.”
According to Roang, a few years ago the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources required Kipp to update their pollution standards around the factory so adjacent neighbors would not be directly in the path of the factory’s fumes.
Kipp has since put up higher stacks but many neighbors would prefer they put in actual pollution controls, said Roang.
Kipp representatives were unresponsive to requests for comments.