Northern Metals reaches settlement with MPCA

Northern Metals reaches settlement with MPCA

Scrap metal recycler agrees to relocate its operations, pay fine.

March 3, 2017
Recycling Today Staff

The Minnesota Pollution Control Administration (MPCA) has announced that Minneapolis-based Northern Metals has reached a settlement with the state of Minnesota and will relocate its operations from Minneapolis to Becker, Minnesota.

The agreement ends a protracted case that pitted the scrap metal company and the MPCA against each other over claims the recycler, through its auto shredder, was a major contributor to elevated levels of air pollution in the area.

Along with agreeing to relocate, Northern Metals has agreed to pay a penalty.

The settlement has been submitted to the Ramsey County (Minnesota) District Court for final approval.

Under the settlement, Northern Metal Recycling will move the shredder to a new, nonmetro location by August 2019 and will 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,” says MPCA Commissioner John Linc Stine in a statement. “The company recognized the serious nature of its violations, and they’ve chosen to take the right steps.”

The inclusion of funds for community health projects settles claims by the city, which joined as a party to negotiations last fall. The city held two public meetings to get public input on the community health funding.

Minneapolis Mayor Betsy Hodges says, “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 legal actions in which the MPCA sought to close Northern Metals’ shredder in district court and revoke the facility’s air quality permit. The MPCA began monitoring air near the site in 2014; results showed levels of particulate matter and metals are higher in the area than at other monitoring locations.

The consent decree notes that by entering into it, Northern Metals is settling a disputed matter between itself and the MPCA and the city of Minneapolis.

In a statement following the settlement, Scott Helberg, Northern Metals COO, says, “After multiple years of costly and contentious litigation against the MPCA concerning the operation of our Pacific Street Facility, Northern Metals is pleased that we have been able to amicably and cooperatively resolve this matter outside of the courts.

“Instead of litigating, Northern Metals has opted to voluntarily settle all of the long-standing claims that we have made against the MPCA concerning its actions against our facility. We have also proactively addressed the concerns raised by MPCA in its permit revocation proceeding. We have admitted to no violations of law, and indeed, we continue to maintain that at all times, Northern Metals has operated the Pacific Street shredder to the strictest standards of environmental compliance and in accordance with our permit terms and conditions and applicable Minnesota and federal law.

“The consent decree will allow us to continue to operate the shredder at Pacific Street until our new proposed facility in Becker is permitted and operational. We will continue to work cooperatively with MPCA, the ity of Minneapolis and the resident of North Minneapolis during this time.”

In supporting its claim, Northern Metals also says that during its settlement negotiations, it conducted performance testing at the facility under the supervision of the MPCA that showed air emissions for particulate matter below limits established by Northern Metals’ air permit.

At the same time, the company pointed to independently conducted “background” testing of local ambient air conditions confirming other adjacent sources in the area were generating excessive sources of particulate matter and lead.

In moving its operations, Heldberg notes that it has acquired more than 50 acres in Becker, Minnesota, from Xcel Energy and will build a scrap metal facility and include a new shredder and materials recovery plant.

Northern Metals adds that when the new auto shredder is installed its Minneapolis auto shredder will cease operations.

To read the consent agreement, click here.