What’s making news in Minneapolis, reported by the Star Tribune’s team of city reporters. Send news tips to baird.helgeson@startribune.com.

Chemical leak in northeast Mpls.

Posted by: James Eli Shiffer under Public safety Updated: December 20, 2011 - 6:09 PM

Firefighters and police are on the scene of a suspected chemical leak in northeast Minneapolis. They have blocked off an area bordered by 1st Avenue NE, University Avenue, 3rd Avenue NE and 2nd Street NE. A firefighter told reporter Nicole Norfleet that some type of chemical was discovered frozen underground, but no information has been released. The leak happened in the vicinity of Superior Plating, a 92-year-old company featured in a Star Tribune story today because it's shutting down within days.

UPDATE 5:17: Superior Plating Plant Manager Michael McMonagle told reporter Nicole Norfleet that chromium has somehow leaked into a railroad ditch adjacent to the soon-to-be-closed plant in northeast Minneapolis. The ditch drains to the Mississippi River, but because the chromium is currently frozen, it doesn't pose that hazard, he said. Someone not associated with the plant discovered the spill, he said.

Deputy Fire Chief Harold Breffle said he doesn't know yet how dangerous the chemicals are, because samples still need to be taken.

According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, chromium is a naturally occurring element that is used in some forms in metal plating and other industrial applications. Based on health assessments that call hexavalent chromium a likely carcinogen, the EPA has proposed tighter limits on the chemical in drinking water.

UPDATE 6:05: The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency and a private contractor will do an emergency cleanup of the spilled chromium, which extends about two blocks along a railroad track behind Superior Plating. Deputy Fire Chief Harold Breffle told reporter Nicole Norfleet that a resident discovered the spill. Right now, the chromium doesn't pose a hazard because it's frozen, Breffle said. “If it gets dry, or it gets dusty, you can inhale it. It’s a cancer causing thing. That’s why we’re trying to clean up.”

All streets have been reopened around Superior Plating, and the trailroad track will briefly reopen to let a train pass through before it's blocked again so cleanup crews can do their work.

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