State helps Minnesota's small businesses clean up the air

Contact: Ralph Pribble, 651-757-2657

St. Paul, Minn. — Smokestacks are not the only contributors to air pollution. In fact, less than a third of it actually comes from such sources, according to the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA). 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 Minnesota Legislature provided funding to help small businesses reduce pollutants called volatile organic compounds (VOCs). So far, 12 small businesses in Minnesota have received more than $400,000 in grants. Altogether, they will cut about 6.2 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,” MPCA Commissioner John Linc Stine said. “They form the biggest part of our air pollution and are largely unregulated, so voluntary actions are an important part of the solution. Most small-business owners know how to cut down on their harmful air emissions, and we’re glad to offer some support to help get things rolling.”

VOCs are typically found in solvents used in paint, metal finishing, printing and other industrial processes. If you’ve ever walked past 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.

Rupp’s Unique Auto Body, a paint and repair shop in Elbow Lake, Minn., 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 them make the switch sooner.

“It’s something we’ve wanted to do for several years, but it’s tough to pull together the needed cash,” he said. Without the grant, Rupp said it could have taken considerably longer to make the switch on their own.

For a list of previous grant recipients, or to sign up for updates on future grant opportunities for businesses interested in reducing their VOCs, the visit the Reducing VOC emissions from your business webpage.