A metal recycling company will have to shut down its shredding facility in north Minneapolis by Aug. 1 after the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) denied its request to continue its operations for two more months.
In a 2017 court settlement, Northern Metal Recycling agreed to relocate its shredding operations after the MPCA recorded high levels of air pollutants near the facility, located just south of Lowry Avenue along the Mississippi River. But the company asked the state to allow the shredder to keep running until Oct. 1, because its new facility in Becker, Minn. would not be ready by August.
In a statement last week, MPCA Commissioner Laura Bishop said Northern Metal “had more than two years” to stop shredding in Minneapolis. According to the agency, the company’s delays in Becker had no impact on its ability to cease operations in Minneapolis.
“The MPCA made a commitment to the residents of north Minneapolis more than two years ago that Northern Metal’s shredding operation would move out of the city to improve the air quality in the neighborhood,” Bishop said. “That’s a commitment the MPCA intends to keep.”
In a letter sent to the MPCA following the decision, Scott Helberg, Northern Metal’s chief operating officer, called the Aug. 1 deadline “arbitrary” and “closely tied to the completion of permitting and construction of the new facility.”
Northern Metal will continue to lease the north Minneapolis property, said Ralph Pribble, an air quality spokesman for the MPCA. While the state agency does not know what the company plans to use it for, Pribble said it may be for “materials sorting or handling.”
Minneapolis residents had fought for decades to move the company out of north Minneapolis, claiming air pollution from the shredder was making them sick.
The MPCA began monitoring the air quality near the site in 2014. It found high concentrations of particulate matter that is linked to an “increased risk of heart attacks, acute and chronic bronchitis, asthma attacks, and other respiratory issues,” according to a statement.
Northern Metal was not the only source of air pollutants, but it was a significant one, according to the MPCA. As part of the settlement, the company agreed to pay $2.5 million in costs and penalties, some of which was spent on lead and asthma consultations in four neighborhoods.
The MPCA will continue to monitor the air quality at the property through 2020, according to the settlement.
The company’s new shredding facility in Becker will give “the community new jobs and economic development opportunities,” Bishop said.
Minneapolis City Council Member Jeremiah Ellison, who represents the neighborhood around the shredder, said he was happy the MPCA denied Northern Metal the extension, and that he hoped the company would one day leave the site completely.
“I hope that we can continue to ... be diligent about where other sources of pollution are coming from, because Northern Metal isn’t the only problem in north Minneapolis,” he said.
Ellison said most of the credit for the relocation of the facility should go to north and northeast Minneapolis parents, community members and activists “who made noise about this for years, if not decades” and “really forced us to look at this issue.”
Council Member Steve Fletcher, who represents nearby neighborhoods in northeast Minneapolis, thanked the MPCA for denying the extension in a tweet last week, saying the shredder was “polluting our air, water, and soil.”
“We’ve lived with this too long already,” he wrote.