Residents in four north Minneapolis neighborhoods can receive free lead and asthma consultations, funded as part of a $2.5 million settlement with a metal recycling facility linked to air pollution on the North Side.
The communities received $600,000 as part of a 2017 agreement between the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) and Northern Metal Recycling. The company is expected to close its riverfront facility south of N. Lowry Avenue and relocate to Becker, Minn., by August.
A committee consisting of North Side residents and the city's Health Department met throughout last year to decide how the money would be spent. The City Council approved its recommendations in January.
Parents in the Bottineau, Sheridan, McKinley and Hawthorne neighborhoods whose children have asthma can now call the Health Department to get a free in-home visit from a specialist on asthma triggers. They could get up to $500 worth of HEPA air cleaners, anti-allergen mattress and pillow covers, pest removal services and gift cards. They can also call to attend a group training on asthma education and receive a $50 gift card.
Families with children under 6 can schedule a free in-home consultation with an expert on lead-paint hazards and also receive a $50 gift card. The city is also contracting with the Sustainable Resources Center, a local nonprofit dedicated to healthy home environments, to provide free blood testing for lead in these neighborhoods.
The city will mail postcards with information on when and where the blood tests are available, said Lisa Smestad, the city's healthy homes and lead hazard control manager. The gift cards, she said, are likely to be for Cub Foods, Target, Aldi and other stores where families can buy products for asthma.
"I'm ecstatic that we are able to act on these things now," she said. "We've needed resources for asthma for a long time, so it's really nice to finally be able to offer them to the community."
Last year, the state air monitor recorded dangerous levels of air pollution in the industrial zone near the Northern Metal facility. The MPCA was working at the time to get facilities to reduce the amount of pollutants they released into the air.
Adam Spees, a member of the committee who lives in the Sheridan neighborhood, said he hopes families take advantage of the new programs.
"We wanted to do something a little bit different with the money and make as big of an impact as we could for individual people that are suffering from these things in the community," he said.
Families can call Smestad at 612-673-3733 for the lead visits and Eliza Schell at 612-685-8512 for the asthma visits.