Residents sound off at community meeting about Smith Foundry

People who live near Smith Foundry in the East Phillips Neighborhood have long complained about fumes and smoke plumes.

Now they want to know if the nearly century-old business violated the Clean Air Act, and why they didn't learn about the violations until months after they were found.

"No matter what they are emitting, it's killing us. It's killing our children. You are supposed to be the one to help us and prevent this from happening and you are failing at your job," said one resident during a community meeting the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency and the East Phillips Improvement Coalition co-hosted at the Phillips Community Center Monday night. 

During a surprise inspection in May, the EPA determined that Smith Foundry had violated the Clean Air Act among other things, emitting fine particulates at twice the amount allowed by its permit since 2018.

However, the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency has said it is not seeing any violations of state or federal air quality standards from the facility.

"We have looked at all the monitoring data, and we are not seeing anything that is over the short or long-term ambient air house standards in the neighborhood," said the MPCA's Kari Palmer.

Officials from Smith Foundry say the business was bought by a Canadian private equity firm almost a year ago. They say they have taken steps to address issues and are committed to meeting safe standards for their neighbors and workers.

"We say what action have you taken in response to our notice of violation? What additional information can you provide about what you are doing to remedy the alleged violations," said Brian Dickens with the EPA.

But some residents want the foundry shut down and not to simply come into compliance. 

The MPCA says it will add air monitors in the community around the foundry in the next few weeks.

It will also co-host a virtual community meeting on the subject on Friday.

Statement of Smith Foundry

Smith Foundry has operated in Minneapolis since 1905. We purchased the assets of Smith Foundry at the end of 2022 and have only operated the business during 2023. We are committed to clean air for our neighbors and meeting state and federal standards. After the purchase, we uncovered and addressed multiple issues at the facility. We cannot speak to reports prior to December 2022 or how the business was operated prior to our ownership. We are working to understand the historical reports regarding issues that were encountered prior to 2023.

We have been actively working with regulators to address and correct any issues identified in the EPA's August report.   In fact, we passed a surprise inspection by the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency just this week.

With respect to the EPA’s report, it is important to be clear that Smith Foundry is a grey and ductile iron foundry and, therefore, does not process alloys that contain lead. As well, we are working with the EPA to complete emissions testing and have engaged an engineering firm to help carry out those tests.

Since taking over the facility, we have uncovered and rectified issues, including:

  • Prior to the EPA’s report, hiring a professional maintenance manager to spearhead improvements at the facility
  • Hiring environmental consultants 
  • Providing training on equipment inspection and maintenance for all staff
  • Changing all filters on the baghouses
  • Replacing or repairing ducts and hoses
  • Putting new hoods on collection points
  • Replacing a portion of the roof

 Smith Foundry will continue to work with regulators and share information with the community about best practices to monitor air quality.

We are committed to meeting safe standards for our neighbors and union workers. We look forward to addressing all concerns with the community at the upcoming community meeting.