City residents discuss potential uses of money from nearing Northern Metals settlement

At a meeting Wednesday, community members suggested funding pollution monitoring, new health centers and education

Members of the North Minneapolis community come together on the Lowry Avenue Bridge in unity against Northern Metal Recycling, as seen in the distance behind them on the evening of June 9. A report by the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency that lists the neighborhood surrounding the facility as the city's highest levels of lead poising and asthma hospitalizations, and points to the recycling facility as a leading cause in the issue.

Daily File Photo

Members of the North Minneapolis community come together on the Lowry Avenue Bridge in unity against Northern Metal Recycling, as seen in the distance behind them on the evening of June 9. A report by the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency that lists the neighborhood surrounding the facility as the city’s highest levels of lead poising and asthma hospitalizations, and points to the recycling facility as a leading cause in the issue.

Max Chao

Ongoing settlement discussions between a pollution agency and the city of Minneapolis may soon put to rest some community members’ concerns over the health impacts of a North Minneapolis recycling facility.

On Wednesday, city and state leaders asked Marcy Holmes and Northeast residents to weigh in on how they want to utilize funds from the pending settlement between Minneapolis, the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency and Northern Metal Recycling.

The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency successfully convinced a Hennepin County District Court judge to temporarily shut down half of Northern Metal’s Near-North Minneapolis facility, which specializes in metal shredding and recycling.

The state’s pollution agency also asked for the company’s air quality permits to be revoked, said Sarah Kilgriff, who manages land and air compliance at MPCA. The company contested the permit revocation, and a judge ordered mediation in the fall of 2016.

“Northern Metal has been a long-standing topic of conversation in the community and we are at an exciting juncture at this point in time, one that I wasn’t sure we would get to,” said Dan Huff, environmental health director for the Minneapolis Health Department.

Potential settlement parameters could include legal cost reimbursements to MPCA, funding for air pollution monitoring around the plant, the permanent termination of metal recycling operations, or the relocation of the facility’s metal shredder to a non-disclosed location by the summer of 2019, Kilgriff said.

A portion of the settlement could also reach the city’s first and third wards, which Kilgriff said are affected by the plant’s emissions.

Wednesday’s meeting is at least the second community forum MPCA has hosted in the last month to discuss possible settlement fund allocation.

Council members Jacob Frey of Ward 3 and Kevin Reich of Ward 1 — along with Rep. Diane Loeffler, DFL-Minneapolis, and Sen. Kari Dziedzic, DFL-Minneapolis — spoke at the meeting in support of local and state pollution control efforts.

“We want frustration to be recognized, but we also want success to be recognized, because that fuels us through frustration to get us to the next step,” Reich said.

Though city residents want the plant to cease operations in Minneapolis, some said they’re concerned residents living near the facility’s next location could be harmed by air emissions.

”I want to urge you all to consider that there is another community somewhere potentially harmed by the actions that are being discussed tonight, and we shouldn’t allow that to happen,” resident Alan Muller said.

Others voiced frustrations over a two-and-a-half year shredder removal process and potentially lengthy court dealings should the settlement fall through.

“It disgusts me that three years [to cease plant operations] is something that we have to consider,” said Minneapolis resident Lars Morris. “But … there is the likelihood that if this doesn’t have a settlement, it could go on for 20 more years.”

During a small-group breakout session, neighborhood residents brainstormed pollution control-related projects that would utilize the settlement funds.

Project ideas included creating a children’s community clinic to treat lead exposure, planting vegetation along roads, making asthma treatment more accessible to those in the area, and incentivizing green businesses to move to Marcy Holmes and Northeast.

MPCA leaders hope to reach a settlement with Northern Metal Recycling by the end of the month, Kilgriff said. The agencies will return to court if a settlement can’t be reached, she said.