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State denies request to delay closure of Minneapolis metal shredder

Northern Metal Recycling had agreed to close its shredder by Aug. 1 as part of a 2017 settlement over alleged violations of its air quality permit.

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Northern Metal Recycling had agreed to close its shredder by Aug. 1.
Northern Metal Recycling, a north Minneapolis metal shredding company, had agreed to close its shredder by Aug. 1 as part of a 2017 settlement over alleged violations of its air quality permit.
Stephanie Hemphill | MPR News 2012

Updated: 4 p.m.  |  Posted: 10:30 a.m.

The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency has denied a request by Northern Metal Recycling to delay its move from north Minneapolis to Becker, agency officials said Thursday.

The MPCA said it received a request from Northern Metal in June to keep operating its metal shredder in north Minneapolis for an additional two months while it prepared to open a new facility in Sherburne County.

Northern Metal faced an Aug. 1 deadline to close the Minneapolis facility as part of a $2.5 million settlement agreement in 2017 that came after the state accused the company of violating its air quality permit and providing inaccurate information to agency officials.

MPCA Commissioner Laura Bishop said residents who live near the metal shredder have waited long enough for the facility to close.

“[Northern Metal has] had 30 months to work on this project,” Bishop said in an interview. “This was a commitment that we had made to north Minneapolis and those communities, and Northern Metals agreed to that.”

Bishop said Northern Metal’s request was related to logistics at its new site in Becker: The company needs a new city sewer line at the Sherburne County location, which won’t be ready in time for the new facility to open this summer. The delay means the new facility won’t be able to open before Oct. 1.

Northern Metal officials did not immediately respond to request for comment.

Bishop said north Minneapolis has been disproportionately affected by air pollution. According to U.S. Census data analyzed by Minnesota Compass, 80 percent of the area’s residents identify as people of color, and 30 percent have incomes below poverty. Minnesota overall is about 20 percent people of color and less than 10 percent have incomes below poverty.

The MPCA’s decision to not prolong Northern Metal’s presence in the neighborhood aligns with the agency’s commitment to environmental justice, Bishop said.

“This was something that our communities in north Minneapolis brought to us,” she said. “We’ve seen the health disparities in that area and exceedances of the state standards for particulate matter” — air pollutants that can get into the lungs and exacerbate conditions like asthma.

Residents in Minneapolis’ north and northeast neighborhoods have been pushing for Northern Metal and other noisy, polluting facilities located along the Mississippi River to move.

“Anything the MPCA could possibly do to make [Northern Metal] adhere to their original agreement, which was far overdue and far too delayed,” said Nancy Przymus, of the Bottineau Neighborhood Association. “We are delighted.”