Officials want north Minneapolis metal shredder permit pulled over pollution

Northern Metal Recyling
Northern Metal Recycling, a north Minneapolis metal shredding company, paid a penalty for exceeding its air emissions permit in 2010.
Stephanie Hemphill | MPR News file 2012

Updated: 6:20 p.m. | Posted: 11:30 a.m.

The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency is pushing to revoke the air quality permit of Northern Metal Recycling, saying the firm has misled the agency and is sending "high levels" of metals into the north Minneapolis air.

Northern Metal runs a metal shredder at 2800 Pacific St. believed to be the main source of "particulate emissions that have repeatedly violated state air quality standards near the site since 2014," the MPCA said in a statement Thursday.

The agency said it filed a court motion to immediately shut down the shredder while it pursues the lengthy process to pull the company's permit.

"The violations of air quality standards that have been occurring in this area must be stopped," MPCA Assistant Commissioner David Thornton said in the statement.

"We believe either the company did not truthfully disclose its emissions from this facility when it was last permitted, or that it has added or changed emission sources since the permit was issued without informing us, or both," he added. "Either of these conditions is a serious violation of state and federal air quality laws and cause for permit revocation."

The MPCA began monitoring air quality near Northern Metal after the permit was issued in 2012. Monitors began detecting elevated particulates almost immediately, at levels that have frequently exceeded state standards.

Analysis of a year's worth of data the MPCA recently completed also found that levels of airborne heavy metals near the site are near or above health benchmarks, the agency said.

MPCA has tried to negotiate with the company but Thornton said the company has been uncooperative in addressing the problems.

In an email, Northern Metal Recycling's president declined comment.

A Ramsey County judge will hear the MPCA's request for a temporary injunction on June 9, the agency says.

The agency in late March noted high levels of lead particles in the air near the metal recycling plant.

Officials said it did not represent an immediate health concern but warned long-term exposure to lead can cause serious health problems.

The Sierra Club has long opposed the metal shredder. North Star Chapter organizing manager Michelle Rosier called MPCA's action a victory for environmental justice in a part of the city that's dealing with too much dirty air.

"When you look at maps, you see that this area in Minneapolis has one of the highest concentrations of asthma," she said. "It also has one of the highest concentrations of air pollution."

Rosier concedes it's hard to make a direct connection between Northern Metal and particular cases of asthma, but she says particulate pollution is a prime cause of the lung disorder.

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