Smokestacks are not the only sources of air pollution. In fact, less than a third of our air pollution actually comes from such industry, according to the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency. The rest is from a wide range of small, individual sources like vehicles, backyard fires, and the widespread use of household and industrial chemicals.
Last year, the Legislature provided funding to help small businesses reduce air emissions called volatile organic compounds, or VOCs. So far, 13 small businesses in Minnesota have received more than $500,000 in grants to reduce VOCs. Altogether, these grants will reduce about seven tons of VOCs, equal to more than 13,000 cans of spray paint.
“The challenges we face with air quality today are mainly from the smaller but numerous sources all around us,” said MPCA Commissioner John Linc Stine. “They form the biggest part of our air pollution and are largely unregulated, so voluntary actions are an important part of the solution. “We offer services to help small businesses reduce air pollution, employee exposure and in many cases, save money. We’re glad to help get things rolling.”
VOCs are typically found in solvents used in printing, metal finishing, painting, and other industrial processes. If you’ve ever walked into an auto body shop and smelled the fumes, that’s VOCs. When released into the air, they combine with small particles to form harmful smog.
Grant helps paint and repair shop in Elbow Lake move to new system
Rupp’s Unique Auto Body, a paint and repair shop in Elbow Lake, Minnesota, received a grant that helped it switch from solvent-based paint to a water-based paint system. Manager/estimator Thomas Rupp said that while the installation isn’t yet complete, tests so far “have been impressive.”
“It smells much better, unlike the solvents we’ve been using, which can give you a headache. Another advantage we see is that it dries faster. With everyone wanting things faster and faster today, that’s big for us.” Rupp estimates the new system will reduce their VOC emissions by more than 40 percent.
Rupp credited the MPCA grant with helping his company make the switch sooner. “It’s something we’ve wanted to do for several years, but it’s tough to pull together the extra cash,” he said. Without the grant, he said it could have taken considerably longer to make the switch on their own.
Visit the MPCA VOC reduction page for more information, including a list of grant recipients.