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Metal shredder should be shut down over dangerous pollution, agency says

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The air in an industrial stretch of North Minneapolis is plagued with lead, chromium and other pollutants – and a state environmental watchdog agency is now trying to shut down the business it says is responsible.

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The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency said Thursday it's taking legal steps to revoke the permit of Northern Metal Recycling for its metal shredder at 2800 N. Pacific St. (across the Mississippi River from Psycho Suzi's, and a few blocks north).

The reason: The Pollution Control Agency says Northern Metals wasn't honest while applying for an air quality permit in 2012, or has changed its emissions sources without telling the agency (or possibly both).

“Either of these conditions is a serious violation of state and federal air quality laws and cause for permit revocation,” MPCA Assistant Commissioner David Thornton said in a news release.

The Pollution Control Agency says it's been monitoring the air around Northern Metals since the company got a license in 2012, and "almost immediately" began detecting higher levels of particulates, reaching levels that are above the state's threshold.

Then in March of this year, the agency said it was worried about levels of airborne lead, chromium, cobalt and nickel in that area of North Minneapolis, and at the time mentioned Northern Metals as a possible culprit.

Nobody with Northern Metals was available to comment early Thursday afternoon.

So what is the MNPCA doing?

The agency is taking legal steps to stop all activity at Northern Metals, including revoking their license – though that takes some time to complete, Thornton noted.

Because of that, they're also asking Ramsey County District Court for what's called an injunction, meaning all shredding at the facility would have to be halted while the license revocation process plays out.

Thornton said there are a lot of things the agency does to try to get companies to comply with pollution standards. But actually trying to close a facility and revoke their permit is a "very rare step," he added.

He also said the agency has been negotiating "in and out of court" with Northern Metals for awhile, but described the company as "uncooperative."

Minnesota Rep. Phyllis Kahn, a Democrat from Minneapolis, said in an email release the shredder has been dangerous for nearly two decades now, even before it was Northern Metals, and applauded the Pollution Control Agency's moves.

“They thought they could get away with it because it was located in a low income and minority area," she said. "While the special interests have been successful in stopping us before, today our voices have been heard. Today is a victory for our community, for our state, and for the people of Minnesota."

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