MPCA: Unhealthy levels of lead in north Minneapolis air

There is an unhealthy level of lead and other heavy metals in the air in north Minneapolis, the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency reported Thursday.

MPCA says it recorded higher levels of lead in the air on the west bank of the Mississippi River near the Lowry Avenue Bridge than in other parts of the state. Two air monitors in the area also recorded levels of chromium, cobalt and nickel that were above federal and state health guidelines.

According to the Minnesota Department of Health, the area already has a higher rate of children with elevated blood lead levels due to lead-based paint used in many of the older homes in the neighborhood.

“While the results in this report do no indicate a short-term health risk, we are concerned about the overall impact on air quality in this area and the potential for harm over the long term, particularly for those who work in the immediate area,” Minnesota Department of Health environmental health manager James Kelly said in a statement.

The agency is trying to determine exactly what is causing the pollution in the air. In a statement released Thursday, the agency noted the metal recycler Northern Metals is between the two air monitors where the recorded higher pollution levels and has some "potentially serious permit violations." However, there agency acknowledges there are other potential sources of the air pollution as well.  

MPCA says they will continue to monitor the air in the area until they can identify the sources of the pollution and reduce the concentration of heavy metals in the area to safe levels.

"I  am outraged to learn of this air quality violation in North Minneapolis," Mayor Betsy Hodges said in a statement. "Make no mistake. This is an environmental justice issue impacting one of the most overburdened neighborhoods in our community. For too long, the health of our residents, including our children, has been determined by their ZIP code. I urge the MPCA to act swiftly to confirm the source of the lead particulate emissions and take the strongest possible action, up to and including revoking permits and shutting down operations completely."