Contact: Dave Verhasselt, 651-757-2278
Saint Paul, Minn. — On Monday, Aug. 29, Ramsey County District Court Judge John Guthmann ordered Northern Metals, a metal shredding and recovery company, to shut down part of the operation called the metals recovery plant and an attached rain and snow shed at its facility in North Minneapolis. These portions, together known as the MRP, must be idled beginning on Sept. 2, 2016, and cannot be used until the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) either issues a modified air permit for the facility or the company proves to the agency that the MRP does not cause or contribute to the ongoing air quality violations in the area.
“We’re still reviewing the order to understand all the details,” said MPCA Commissioner John Linc Stine, “but overall we’re pleased with the judge’s decision.”
The order came after the MPCA asked the court to issue an injunction earlier this summer.
The MPCA issued an air permit to Northern Metals in 2012. Following concerns about poor air quality expressed by neighbors, legislators and the city of Minneapolis, the MPCA set up an ambient air monitor near the facility in 2014. The monitor found elevated levels of particulates, lead and other metals and, in response, the MPCA set up another monitor in 2015.
Through investigations at the site, the MPCA discovered that the company was not following its permit, had not provided critical information to the MPCA during the permit process, and that it had made changes to the facility that increased emissions without the agency’s approval. In response, the agency initiated a separate action to revoke the facility’s permit in May 2016. The company requested a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge; a ruling on that request is expected this fall.
“Our job is to issue permits that protect human health and the environment”, says, David Thornton, MPCA Assistant Commissioner for air quality issues. “When permittees don’t do what the law and their permit requires, it puts people at risk. We believe that Northern Metals is a significant contributor to the ongoing air violations in North Minneapolis and the court’s decision is a great step forward for the people living in those neighborhoods. While Northern Metals has made improvements to its facility, we expect them to respect the law and comply with the Judge’s order.”