Northern Metals

Metal trash heap at Northern Metals, 2800 Pacific Street, North Minneapolis. Photo taken Sept. 26.

Northern Metals Recycling shredder will shred no more. 

With a history of environmental violations, the company located at 2800 Pacific St. in North Minneapolis reached a settlement with the state’s attorney general. The Sept. 23 settlement called for the metal recycling company to immediately halt its metal-shredding operations for good at its North Minneapolis site, admit it altered emissions readings, pay a $200,000 civil penalty to the State of Minnesota’s Environmental Fund and give the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) the ability to reopen the permit for a new Northern Metals facility in Becker, Minn. to allow for greater monitoring of its emissions and pollution-control equipment.

Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison said the settlement exceed the demands and expectations of many who had been trying for years to get the business to cease operations.

“The people of North Minneapolis have been demanding for years that Northern Metals’ shredding operation be shut down. Because of the settlement we reached – which is better than what we could have achieved at trial – that’s finally happening for good. For the first time ever, Northern Metals also publicly admitted it altered its records. On top of that, we won more money for the environment than the maximum the law would have allowed at trial. And we made sure the settlement could benefit the people of Becker as well,” said Ellison in a statement.

By statute, the maximum dollar amount the state could have collected in trial is $150,000.

 “This is a win for all the people of Minnesota, especially the people of North Minneapolis who’ve been fighting for community health and environmental justice for years. This is for them,” said Ellison.

One of those people from North Minneapolis is environmental justice advocate Roxxanne O’Brien, but she said the settlement still was not enough.

“They reached a settlement because a whistleblower came forward (about the altered emissions readings) but that was just within the past month; that whistleblower had been with the company for 10 years, so there’s a lot that wasn’t covered,” said O’Brien, who along with the group Community Members for Environmental Justice, was apprised to the settlement before it was announced publicly. “I feel the government took the easy route.”

The recycling company was originally supposed to close Aug. 1, but a Ramsey County judge offered an extension while Northern Metals and the MPCA resolved a dispute. The Aug. 1 deadline was part of a 2017 $2.5 million consent decree to settle allegations of polluting the air in North and Northeast Minneapolis. Analysis from 2016 showed the air around the shredder had elevated levels of lead, chromium, cobalt and nickel.

Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey called the settlement “welcome news.”

“Northern Metals has broken our laws and breached their agreement with the state, all while brazenly betraying the public’s trust,” said Frey. “(The) decision to immediately shutdown the shredder is welcome news for a community that for years has borne the brunt of their bad action.”

State Sen. Bobby Joe Champion (DFL-59), whose district is affected by the pollution, said the shutdown and settlement are meaningful.

“Northern Metals was supposed to shut down back on Aug. 1 and that day came and went, so to have this settlement it’s great news for the community; one because Northern Metals is shut down, but two, because there was an admission of what they were doing,” said Champion. “So altogether, this moves us forward. But what is also important is how do we make sure we don’t have another situation like this in the future.”

Champion said his hope is the $200,000 will be used to directly impact the residents of North and Northeast Minneapolis.

Unlike the shredding facility in North Minneapolis, the new Becker facility will be enclosed.

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