Activists Unite to Demand Action in Ongoing Smith Foundry Investigation

Residents and climate activists in Minneapolis’ East Phillips neighborhood are steadfast in their demand to shut down Smith Foundry, as regulators continue their investigation into pollution levels. Despite recent test data from the foundry showing...

Residents and climate activists in Minneapolis’ East Phillips neighborhood are steadfast in their demand to shut down Smith Foundry, as regulators continue their investigation into pollution levels. Despite recent test data from the foundry showing compliance with permit rules, local environmental activists are calling for action based on violations reported by federal regulators last summer.

At a community meeting scheduled for Wednesday, officials from the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA), the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and the state and city health departments will update attendees on the ongoing investigation. However, residents and activists remain skeptical and are pushing for the foundry to be permanently closed.

The EPA conducted a surprise inspection at Smith Foundry last May and discovered issues with its pollution control systems. Violations of the foundry's permit resulted in elevated emissions of particulate matter and lead, raising concerns about public health and safety. Since then, regulators have been diligently investigating the foundry.

In November, the MPCA conducted another surprise inspection and found that the pollution filtration system, known as the baghouses, was functioning properly. However, emissions of lead were detected, albeit at levels deemed not high enough to be of immediate concern. Local residents and activists argue that the current permit does not have strict enough requirements to ensure the safety of the surrounding residential neighborhood.

While the foundry's latest data may be in compliance with its permit, activists believe that additional measures need to be taken to protect the community. They point out that some areas of the facility are not filtered through the baghouses and release emissions directly into the environment.

The ongoing investigation has highlighted the need for the foundry to update its pollution control equipment in order to comply with the state's tightened rules on pollution in South Minneapolis. The facility is in the process of renewing its permit, and the new requirements will necessitate the addition of more pollution control equipment.

Evan Mulholland, a lawyer with the Minnesota Center for Environmental Advocacy, raised concerns about the foundry operating without the necessary equipment. He questions why such operations are still allowed to continue in a residential area.

The East Phillips neighborhood has a history of environmental problems, including a long-term EPA arsenic cleanup project and higher-than-average health issues compared to the rest of the state. Concerns about the foundry have persisted for years, with residents often noticing smoke and odors emanating from the facility.

Cassie Holmes, who works with the East Phillips Neighborhood Institute, expressed the discontent of the community, stating, "We want the foundry out of our neighborhood." The foundry's president, Adolfo Quiroga, emphasized the commitment to clean air and providing well-paying, good union jobs in Minneapolis.

Regulators have assured the public that they will continue to update them throughout the investigation and permit process. The MPCA has installed community air quality monitors near the foundry and maintains a web page with up-to-date information on the investigation.

The ongoing dialogue between regulators and the East Phillips community will be crucial in addressing concerns and answering questions. The permit application from the foundry is expected to be submitted in the coming months, with opportunities for public comment before a final permit is issued.

As the investigation progresses, activists and residents will remain vigilant in their pursuit of a safe and healthy environment for their neighborhood. The ongoing support from the community will play a significant role in holding regulators accountable and ensuring that the concerns of the residents are heard and addressed.

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