Northern Metals settles for $2.5 million, will move shredder from Minneapolis

Contact: Ralph Pribble, 651-757-2657

A north Minneapolis metal recycler that the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) alleged was contributing to poor air quality has agreed in a settlement to move its metal shredder to a non-metro location, pay a large penalty, reimburse the state’s costs, and provide funding to the city of Minneapolis for community health projects.  

The settlement has been submitted to the Ramsey County District Court for final approval.  The settlement document (Consent Decree) is available on the MPCA’s North Minneapolis Air Monitoring Project webpage.

Under the settlement, Northern Metals Recycling will move the shredder to a new, non-metro location by August 2019 and pay $2.5 million in costs and penalties, including:

  • a $1 million civil penalty;
  • payment for three years of continued air monitoring near the facility;
  • reimbursement to the state for past monitoring costs, court costs, and legal fees; and,
  • $600,000 to the city of Minneapolis for community heath projects to benefit nearby communities.

“This settlement is a welcome start to addressing a problem for residents in North Minneapolis who are already overburdened with health and pollution issues,” said MPCA Commissioner John Linc Stine.  “The company recognized the serious nature of its violations, and they’ve chosen to take the right steps.”

“We know that North Minneapolis residents are concerned about allowing the shredder to continue operating for up to two-and-a-half years in that location,” Stine said.  “The company has made the improvements and passed the emissions testing we wanted them to complete, and they are complying with their permit.  They’ve committed to doing a better job, and we will be closely watching over their operation.”

Stine said that while pollutant levels in the area have been reduced since the partial shutdown and improvements made by Northern Metals, they’re still higher than the agency would like.  “We’ve got more work to do in that area,” he added.

The settlement is one of the largest ever negotiated by the MPCA.  The community funding provision settles claims by the city, which joined as a party to settlement negotiations last fall.  The city held two public meetings to get public input on the community health funding.

Minneapolis Mayor Betsy Hodges said in a statement, “This settlement provides a measure of environmental justice for the people of North Minneapolis. We will be using the settlement to do what the residents of North Minneapolis told us they wanted us to do with it: address and mitigate asthma and lead poisoning in the neighborhoods that have some of the highest child lead-poisoning rates in our city and the highest asthma hospitalization rate in our state.”

The settlement resolves an action that Northern Metals started in Ramsey County District Court in the spring of 2015 to try to shut down MPCA air monitors near the shredder.  It also ends a process the MPCA began to revoke Northern Metals’ operating permit after determining the company had not provided accurate information in its permit application or in response to MPCA requests for information.  

The MPCA began monitoring air quality near the facility, at 2800 N. Pacific St., in the fall of 2014.  The monitor found particulate matter above state standards.  To investigate further, the agency added a second monitor to “bookend” the facility.  Data from these monitors suggested emissions from Northern Metals were contributing to violations of the standard.

Analysis of a year’s worth of data in the spring of 2016 showed air around the facility also had elevated levels of lead, chromium, cobalt and nickel.  This finding, along with MPCA’s discovery that Northern Metals was operating an unpermitted source of particulates, prompted the agency to ask the court to shut down the facility.  The unpermitted source also was a basis of MPCA’s action to revoke the facility’s operating permit.

When calculating penalties, the MPCA takes into account how seriously the violations affected the environment, whether they were first-time or repeat violations, and how promptly the violations were reported to authorities. The agency also attempts to recover the calculated economic benefit gained by failure to comply with environmental laws in a timely manner.