The Northern Metals Recycling facility in north Minneapolis, long a source of residents’ air quality concerns, will relocate to Becker, Minn., by August 2019.
Under an agreement reached with the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA), Northern Metals will also pay $2.5 million in costs and penalties.
“This settlement is a welcome start to addressing a problem for residents in north Minneapolis who are already overburdened with health and pollution issues,” MPCA Commissioner John Linc Stine said in a statement Friday. “The company recognized the serious nature of its violations, and they’ve chosen to take the right steps.”
The MPCA has been in negotiations with Northern Metals since the fall. The settlement, one of the largest the MPCA has ever negotiated, resolves two ongoing legal disputes.
In 2015, Northern Metals went to court to try to shut down MPCA air monitors near the facility. A year later, the MPCA moved to revoke Northern Metals’ air quality permit after investigations at the site revealed the company was not following the permit and had omitted information during the permit process.
The $2.5 million settlement includes a $1 million civil penalty, payment for three years of air monitoring, reimbursement to the state for monitoring costs, court costs and legal fees and $600,000 for community heath projects in areas neighboring the facility.
In a statement, Northern Metals Chief Operating Officer Scott Helberg said the company is “pleased that we have been able to amicably and cooperatively resolve this matter outside of the courts.”
The statement maintained that Northern Metals complied with its permit terms and obeyed state and federal laws.
Northern Metals’ move to Becker will take a couple of years, said Sarah Kilgriff, manager of the MPCA’s land and air compliance section.
“In the meantime, of course, the agency is going to be watching the facility very closely and ensuring that they’re staying in compliance with the limits and their permit,” she said.
Northern Metals is expected to bring more than 85 jobs to Becker, where city officials have been courting the company for about a year. The facility will be located in the city’s industrial park near Hwy. 10 and a railroad line.
“We’re pretty excited to get started on it,” said City Manager Greg Pruszinske.
Meanwhile, Minneapolis residents living near Northern Metals can’t wait to get rid of it.
Northern Metals is paying for community health efforts in north and northeast Minneapolis. The money will go toward asthma education and mitigation, as well as efforts to increase lead testing follow-up for children, said Dan Huff, environmental health director at the Minneapolis Health Department.
Additional mitigation will be needed after the money from Northern Metals is gone, Huff said. Grants from the Department of Housing and Urban Development and Environmental Protection Agency are possible solutions, he said — but they’re precarious, given the Trump administration’s plans to reduce funding to both.
“In any settlement, there are pluses and minuses,” Huff said. “This is no exception.”