- Associated Press - Thursday, March 24, 2016

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) - Minnesota regulators said Thursday that they’re concerned about airborne lead particles in violation of state standards in an industrial area of north Minneapolis that is near a residential area.

The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency found lead levels at two of its monitors that were substantially higher than those detected by its monitoring equipment at other locations in the state. It also found levels of chromium, cobalt and nickel above health-based guidelines used by state and federal agencies, although actual standards for those metals haven’t been set.

MPCA Assistant Commissioner David Thornton said in a statement that the agency is still trying to determine the exact source of the pollution, but that the agency suspects a scrap yard called Northern Metals. However, it said there are other possible sources, too.

“While the results in this report do not 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,” James Kelly, environmental health manager with the Minnesota Department of Health, said in the statement.

Lead can cause developmental problems in children and cardiovascular problems in adults. Kids are most often exposed from lead-based paint in older homes.

The MPCA described Northern Metals’ attitude as “adversarial,” saying the company has sued to try to stop the MPCA’s air monitoring. The company is under court order to conduct further testing to determine whether it’s in compliance with its MPCA-issued air emissions permit. But Thornton said the MPCA recently learned that the company may not have submitted accurate information during the permitting process and that it may have changed its operations or added new emission sources, or both, without informing the agency.

“These are potentially serious permit violations,” Thornton said. “We’ll be looking at all of our options including permit revocation.”

The agency has summoned Northern Metals to a meeting Tuesday, according to Jack Perry, an attorney who represents the company. He told the Star Tribune newspaper that the company hasn’t been given specifics.

Mayor Betsy Hodges said she’s outraged and urged families who live nearby, or any other neighborhood with older homes that may contain lead paint, to get their children tested.

“Make no mistake,” Hodges said in a statement. “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.”

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Online:

MPCA statement with link to analysis: https://www.pca.state.mn.us/news/mpca-analysis-confirms-poor-air-quality-north-minneapolis-industrial-area

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