St. Paul iron foundry faces deadline to fix pollution

a factory is photographed
The metal foundry Northern Iron, pictured on Dec. 1, was fined $41,500 for failing to properly report changes to its pollution mitigation equipment.
Dymanh Chhoun | Sahan Journal 2023

Updated: 2 p.m.

State regulators have given a St. Paul iron foundry a 30-day deadline to fix lead and particulate matter pollution. 

The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency says that recent emission records from Northern Iron and Machine Foundry in the Payne-Phalen neighborhood indicate excessive pollution. Regulators say it is “highly likely” that the foundry is emitting levels of lead and particulate matter over federal air quality standards. 

Regulators issued an administrative order this week to the foundry. It’s now required to come into compliance with air quality standards and demonstrate that it can keep operating without excessive pollution, within 30 days.

“The MPCA has been working with the new owners of Northern Iron to address these likely exceedances,” the agency said in a statement.

It’s the latest in a series of concerns that the state has noted at the foundry. In October, regulators reported that the foundry had violated its permit, replacing and removing pieces of pollution control equipment without notifying the state. The MPCA fined the foundry $41,500 for the violations.

The foundry said in a statement that it’s upgrading its environmental controls.

“Northern Iron is committed to working with MPCA and the entire community through this process to make sure our facility meets or exceeds requirements related to our operations,” the foundry said.

The MPCA has installed air quality monitors in the neighborhood to track pollution. The agency notes that Payne-Phalen is “an area of concern for environmental justice,” determined based on income and racial demographics.

Regulators are planning a community meeting in May, where they will update neighbors on the situation and answer questions about pollution.

“The MPCA is committed to updating Payne-Phalen residents with information on our work with Northern Iron,” the agency said.

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