Revised north Mpls. metal shredder permit advances

  • Article by: STEVE BRANDT , Star Tribune
  • Updated: October 1, 2012 - 7:33 PM

Further compliance study of controversial plant is not needed, MPCA said. Vote is set for Oct. 23.

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Minneapolis officials said 18,000 people live within a mile of the shredder. The state said it would install air monitors to keep tabs on pollution.

Photo: David Brewster, Star Tribune

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The state is poised to issue a revised air pollution permit for a metal shredder on the north Minneapolis riverfront, despite objections from area lawmakers and others who want further environmental studies.

The citizen board of the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency voted 6-1 at a special meeting Monday to consider the revised permit on Oct. 23 without requiring further study.

If the proposed permit is issued, after almost a year of debate, that will put shredder operator Northern Metals in compliance with state air quality standards for the first time since shortly after the machine began dicing scrap metal in 2009. Company President Stephen Ettinger said he had no comment on the decision.

The vote came despite pleas for more study from three area legislators, North Side residents and advocates. Some argued that further assessment would better define whether the pollutants released by the shredder affect human health and also look into environmental justice issues raised by placing the facility in a heavily minority and often low-income population. City officials said about 18,000 people live within a mile of the shredder.

Statistical modeling found that air quality standards would be violated by the cumulative effect of area businesses emitting small-particle pollutants, but the agency staff said the shredder would contribute only about 2 percent of that load. They said that the state is working on reducing emissions from other sources in the area, and will install air monitors to keep closer tabs on the pollution.

The proposed permit sets an initial limit of slightly under 2 pounds of fine particles per hour, although that could go up after three years under certain conditions. The current limit is about 25 percent of that level. But agency staff said that the proposed limit also takes into account particles that form in the condensing of shredder emissions.

The proposal also would end the prohibition on the shredder consuming auto hulks, rather than the pieces of cars it now is fed. The agency said such material must still have contaminants removed before processing.

The riverfront site at 2800 Pacific St. N. has been used as a yard where scrap metal is collected, sorted and shipped off to market since 1951. The proposal to raise the value of that scrap emerged in 1989 when a previous owner put down a deposit on a shredder. It took 20 years of political, legal and regulatory debate for Northern Metals to begin operating it.

Steve Brandt • 612-673-4438 Twitter: Brandtstrib

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  • Northern Metals in north Minneapolis began dicing scrap metal in 2009. The proposed permit would allow car hulks to be processed, as well.

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