By Paul Ploumis
SEATTLE (Scrap Monster): The North Minneapolis-based Northern Metal Recycling has reached an agreement with the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) on its auto shredder facility alleged of causing significant air pollution in the region. According to the agreement, the company will relocate the said facility to the city of Becker. In addition, it will pay a fine amounting to $2.5 million in costs and penalties. The settlement is now pending before the Ramsey County District Court for final approval.
With regards to relocation of the facility to a new location outside of the city, the company has already reached an agreement with Xcel Energy- the Minnesota headquartered electric and natural gas utility major. As per the terms of the agreement, the new facility will be built on a 40-acre industrial site located near the Sherco Xcel Energy plant in Becker. The new facility is expected to have a new shredder and materials recovery plant. It will bring around 85 new jobs to the community. The construction of the new facility may take a couple of years and operations are expected to commence in August 2019. Meantime, Northern Metals will be allowed to operate the shredder at the existing Minnesota facility until the new facility becomes operational.
Northern Metals will pay a fine of $2.5 million to settle the pollution allegations raised against the Northern Pacific facility. Out of this, $1 million goes as civil penalty and $600,000 towards the city of Minneapolis for community health projects favoring nearby communities. The fine also includes payment for three years of continuous air monitoring and reimbursement of past monitoring costs, court costs and legal fees.
Scott Helberg, Chief Operating Officer at Northern Metals noted that the company is extremely pleased to have reached an amicable out-of-the-court settlement to the long pending issue, which had involved costly and contentious litigation against the state regulatory authority. He further assured that the company will cooperate with MPCA, the City of Minneapolis and the North Minneapolis residents to ensure that no harm is caused to the surrounding environment due to its operations. Commenting on the agreement, MPCA Commissioner John Linc Stine stated that the agreement is the result of the company’s realization of the serious nature of violations. Also, Minneapolis Mayor Betsy Hodges stated that the settlement brings in environmental justice to the people of North Minneapolis.
Following complaints by local residents, MPCA had begun monitoring the site in October 2014. A second monitoring site had begun operations in 2015 as well. The monitors had measured elevated levels of airborne particulate and heavy metals. The air monitoring results had identified violations of the daily and annual TSP standards. It also identified elevated lead concentrations, measured at 80% of the national lead standard and elevated heavy metal concentrations of chromium, cobalt, and nickel measured above chronic inhalation health risk guidelines.
Following a petition filed by the regulator seeking an injunction, the Ramsey County (Minnesota) District Court Judge John Guthmann ordered the scrap metal company to shut down part of its material recovery plant and an attached shed that is used to separate metals and nonmetallic fluff from the shredded material.