With the state pollution agency's actions toward a Minneapolis iron foundry under scrutiny, a different foundry in St. Paul is paying the price for long-standing permit violations uncovered by the agency.

The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency announced in late October that it fined Northern Iron & Machine $41,500 after finding the company had removed and replaced pollution control equipment over the last 15 years without notifying regulators. The agency discovered the violations during an inspection in February 2022.

The company, at 867 Forest St. in St. Paul's East Side, changed out equipment without amending its air permit, failed to certify hoods that capture particulate matter pollution and improperly used some of its pollution control equipment, according to the MPCA.

Northern Iron also never disclosed it had expanded its machine shop into a building on the southeast corner of the property, which would have required it to monitor the air both inside and outside the building, the MPCA said.

While the violations all increased the risk of air pollution and harm to human health, there is no evidence that they did, said Stephen Mikkelson, an MPCA spokesman.

In the roughly 18 months after the violations were discovered, the MPCA and Northern Iron negotiated the fine and any corrective actions the company would need to take. In July, the company agreed to pay $41,500 and to comply with its air permit.

The MPCA inspected the facility again in August and found it to be in compliance. A month later, agency representatives announced the violations and told neighbors at a Payne Phalen community council meeting.

The foundry referred questions to a spokeswoman, who did not return phone calls. The company makes iron castings in a facility just north of Phalen Boulevard. It's one of the last industrial survivors of a corner of the city that once included a Whirlpool plant, Hamm's Brewery and a 3M facility.

It sits across the street from dozens of small houses and now abuts a strip mall that includes a rock climbing gym, a barber school and an auto repair shop.

The MPCA has added air monitors around the foundry, Mikkelson said.

"We want to get more data more often moving forward as a protective measure for neighbors," he said.

Neighbors of the foundry are hoping to find out more specifics on what happened, said Jack Byers, executive director of the district's community council.

"We were given a quick update by the MPCA," he said. "There's always been a concern here because we have a higher level of industry. And we're right at the crook of a couple freeways."

He said there is high interest in how the MPCA will spend the money from the fine.

"Folks think it should be used here, to plant more greenery or for clinics that treat kids with asthma," he said. "It won't solve everything, but the thought is that these fines could and should be used in the places that were affected as opposed to the MPCA's general fund."

In May, federal inspectors with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency conducted a surprise inspection on Smith Foundry, which is unaffiliated with Northern Iron, in the East Phillips neighborhood of Minneapolis. They said they discovered the foundry had been violating air-emissions laws since at least 2018. The MPCA, which is responsible for enforcing the foundry's air permit, didn't take any action against the company during that time.