On March 3rd the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) announced the settlement agreement between the agency, the City of Minneapolis, and Northern Metals Recycling. The recycling facility that has been a community burden for operating with disregard to their responsibility for air quality and health of the residents of North Minneapolis, has finally met the match of what community organizing can accomplish.
Since 2009, concerned neighbors have pounded on the door of the MPCA about Northern Metals Recycling highlighting the stench of heavy metallic air that compounds the impacts of all industrial facilities that surround this part of the Mississippi River. Northern Metals ignored the continuous commands from the MPCA to report their air emissions and operations. This led to the decision by the MPCA to revoke the permit of Northern Metals, but the course of action that was taken by the residents of North and Northeast Minneapolis is ultimately what procured the the end of the recycling plant in North Minneapolis.
The settlement orders Northern Metals Recycling to pay a total of $2.5 million dollars in fines for continued air monitoring, reimbursements to the state, and a sum of $600,000 for community reparations in the form of environmental and health programs, and the deadline to completely move out of North Minneapolis by August 2019. Fines and reimbursements will be issued to the state through the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency. The community programs will be administered through the City of Minneapolis. Read the full settlement here.
We want to look at this settlement as a victory. And on one hand it is. It took real courage by so many members of these communities to organize with one another, to speak up about the pain that has been bared because of Northern Metals polluting, and to demand better. On the other hand, in no way will this sum of money or any program absolve the harm it's caused. Northern Metals Recycling has the next two and a half years to move its operations to the small town of Becker, MN but that's a long time to ask residents to endure. So now the question turns to how the city will guarantee the fair and thorough use of funds that serve true benefit to these neighborhoods, that exemplifies environmental justice. This is only a step towards a concrete solution that deals with undoing decades of environmental racism and degradation.
We will keep fighting alongside our neighbors in North and Northeast Minneapolis to ensure that their voices remain the core of these decisions, to demand transparency and inclusion. And within these next two and a half years with Northern Metals allowed to finish out operations, we will keep reminding them what they’ve done, and what we can do.