Lawmakers call for closure of Northern Metals facility after extension granted

A group of six lawmakers, who represent north and northeast Minneapolis, are calling for a judge to cease operations at the Northern Metals facility after the judge ruled the facility can continue operations after the previously agreed upon end date.

"Allowing Northern Metals to continue operations will only add to our constituents' grievances and contribute to the narrative that those who are supposed to listen do not," read the letter.

Under a 2017 consent decree, Northern Metals was set to end shredding operations at the north Minneapolis location on August 1 after the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency found the company had been polluting the air. However, the company requested to extend operations for two more months until the new Becker facility was up and running. After the MPCA denied the request, the company asked for court intervention to allow the extension.

Monday, the Ramsey County District Court issued the order to allow for operations to continue while Northern Metals and the MPCA are in the dispute resolution process.

Senator Bobby Joe Champion (DFL-Minneapolis), Representative Raymond Dehn (DFL-Minneapolis), Senator Kari Dziedzic (DFL-Minneapolis), Representative Fue Lee (DFL-Minneapolis), Representative Diane Loeffler (DFL-Minneapolis) and Representative Mohamud Noor (DFL-Minneapolis) sent a joint letter to Judge John H. Guthmann sharing their concerns and frustrations for the continuing operations.

"We respectfully request the Court cease the metal shredder operations immediately upon the expiration of the dispute resolution process outlined in the Consent Decree, and we want an immediate resolution to minimize health impacts to our neighbors and constituents," read the letter.

In a report by the FOX 9 Investigators, the MPCA found dangerous levels of lead in the air near the facility. According to a state health department official, children in a nearby neighborhood were found to have the second highest level of lead concentrations in the state.

"They are concerned about their health and the effects from the air pollution from Northern Metals," read the letter. "The 55411 zip code where the facility is located has the highest asthma hospitalization rate in the state - five times higher than the state average."

Northern Metals is planning to move its operations to Becker, but according to the letter the site is not ready yet and the company could lose up to $10.5 million in revenue a month if the Minneapolis site closes before the Becker site is operational. The lawmakers argue the company should have been more transparent.

"Northern Metal Recycling is pleased with the guidance from the court," read a statement from Scott Helberg, the COO of Northern Metal Recycling. "We look forward to completing the construction of our new, state of the art recycling facility in Becker which will employ 85 Minnesotans. As we continue to work closely with the City of Becker to obtain all necessary utilities, we are excited about the future."