Minnesota recycler works with MPCA to improve air quality

Alliance Recycling Group makes changes to its operations following increase in airborne heavy metals near the company’s site.

September 13, 2016

Alliance Recycling Group,  a metals recycling company headquartered in Minneapolis, has reached an agreement with the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) on steps the company will take to reduce the potential for dust and other air pollutants from leaving their property.

“We appreciate the company agreeing to work proactively and cooperatively with the MPCA rather than waiting for the MPCA to take action” says MPCA Land and Air Compliance Section Manager Sarah Kilgriff. “They’re taking the lead to set a great example we hope other businesses will follow.”

According to the MPCA, Alliance is one of several businesses in an industrial area of Minneapolis that contribute to air emissions in the area. In 2014, ambient air monitors, which take general air samples for an area, began detecting levels of particulate matter above ambient air quality standards. In early 2016, the MPCA was able to determine that there were also elevated levels of heavy metals. Analysis of more than a year’s worth of data showed that levels of airborne heavy metals near the site are near or above health benchmarks.

As soon as the monitoring levels showed a health concern, MPCA compliance and enforcement staff began connecting with area businesses to make them aware of the situation and invite them to take extra steps to help improve the area air quality. Most businesses have been open to discuss the topic, but Alliance is the first to sign an agreement with the MPCA that will commit them to take several specific steps to reduce particulate matter emissions. 

“We just felt this agreement will make Alliance a better company and provide more air pollution protection for our customers than we ever imagined,” says Larry Zweigbaum, Alliance Recycling Group’s environmental officer. “It really wasn’t a difficult choice for us. We want to provide the highest level of pollution protection for our workers, our customers, our vendors and neighbors of this industrial area. We found our negotiation with the MPCA to be constructive, honest and productive.”

Among other things the agreement commits Alliance to several activities that will reduce or minimize dust, including expanding the sweeping of paved areas, setting materials on railcars rather than dropping the materials and taking steps to reduce or eliminate the pounding or tamping of materials in railcars to compress it.

“What a great example of the Minnesota business ethic,” says MPCA Commissioner John Linc Stine. “We don’t expect the steps Alliance Recycling has agreed to will resolve this air quality challenge by themselves, but their action is a tremendous choice nonetheless.”