After decades of fighting to move a metal recycling facility out of a North Side neighborhood, Minneapolis residents may finally see results.
The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency has been in negotiations with Northern Metal Recycling since the fall and is working toward a resolution that would require Northern Metal to move the facility out of the metro area and pay a financial settlement to the community.
Details about where the facility might end up and how much a settlement might be are confidential because negotiations are ongoing. But at a community meeting this week, staff from the MPCA and the city of Minneapolis seemed optimistic.
“We are at an exciting juncture at this point in time — one that I wasn’t sure we would get to,” said Dan Huff, environmental health director at the Minneapolis Health Department.
Northern Metal Chief Operating Officer Scott Helberg declined to comment, citing the ongoing negotiations.
The Northern Metal facility and its metal shredder, located just south of the Lowry Avenue Bridge in Minneapolis’ Hawthorne neighborhood, has spurred air quality concerns for years.
In May 2016, the MPCA moved to revoke Northern Metal’s air quality permit after investigations at the site revealed that the company was not following the permit and had omitted information during the permit process. Northern Metal requested a contested case hearing, and an administrative law judge ordered the MPCA and Northern Metal to mediation.
A settlement, which would also resolve an ongoing MPCA move to shut down the Northern Metal facility, could be reached by the end of January, said Sarah Kilgriff, manager of the MPCA’s land and air compliance section.
“We have to really get something wrapped up by the end of the month, because the judge is going to want to make a ruling,” she said.
Under the proposed settlement, the Northern Metal facility would move out of the metro by summer 2019.
While the settlement would be a victory for the neighborhoods affected by Northern Metal, residents are worried about the long-term effects of remaining pollution from Northern Metal and other industrial facilities.
The ZIP code where Northern Metal is located has the highest asthma hospitalization rate in Minnesota, data from the Minnesota Department of Health show. The Hawthorne neighborhood has the city’s highest blood lead level in children under 6, according to the Minneapolis Health Department.
At the community meeting, Bottineau neighborhood president Mariam Slayhi said she wants the potential financial settlement to go toward research on residents’ health, as well as testing soil contamination. The neighborhood has already spent about $37,000 for a study of mortality in the area.
Community meeting attendees also raised concerns about how local industrial facilities affect the Mississippi River. Those interested in joining a citizens group to work on the issue jotted their names down on a clipboard passed around the crowded room.
“It’s been a long, long fight on many issues,” Council Member Kevin Reich, who represents northeast, told the crowd. “We will never lose sight that this is just one piece — one piece of a long fight.”