Smith Metal Foundry Plant Violates MN Clean Air Act
Olivia Allery, news editor
The Smith Metal Foundry, located in the East Phillips neighborhood, has been found to have violated Minnesota’s Clean Air Act upwards of nine times from 2018-2023. According to the Sahan Journal, the Foundry failed to control the amount of dangerous air pollutants expelled from manufacturing and processing, failed to update and maintain machinery that reduces pollution and failed to notify the state of the maintenance needed.
According to the Star Tribune, The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) conducted air tests around the Smith Foundry site, once in Oct. 2022 and again in April 2023, where they found elevated levels of air particulate matter. Then in May 2023, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) conducted a random inspection of the site and demanded the plant do something about the air pollutant violation after finding cracks in the ductwork. According to the Sahan Journal, the EPA found that the Foundry was expelling at least twice as much air pollutants (such as lead and other particulate matter) than permitted by the state. The MPCA, who is responsible for enforcing the foundry’s permit, also has not taken any action regarding the EPA findings.
The EPA findings have also left the people of the East Phillips neighborhood confused and scared as to why the plant was even allowed to continue to operate. According to the Star Tribune, the East Phillips neighborhood has made numerous complaints to the MPCA about the Foundry’s fumes and emissions and wonders why no action has been taken.
Allison Lind, a mother from East Phillips, wrote in a public letter to Star Tribune on Nov. 13 that her two year-old son who attends daycare just across the street from the foundry has been suffering with respiratory problems believed to be from the foundry’s fumes emitted. “I have frequently reported noxious odors from Smith Foundry to the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA). On Oct. 18, after I submitted another complaint, MPCA insisted that Smith Foundry was operating normally. They suggested the fumes might not be from Smith Foundry, considering other businesses in the vicinity, and that in the future I report my concerns to 311,” Lind says in her letter to Star Tribune.
According to the Sahan Journal, East Phillips is considered an environmental justice neighborhood, given its income and demographics. East Phillips members are majority POC and according to MN State data, given the large amounts of industrial companies and highways, has some of the worst health outcomes. According to ABC News, on Nov. 10, community members showed up in protest after the EPA’s findings, to voice their outrage and calls for accountability to the failure of the MPCA to protect the health of the East Phillips neighborhood. “You see asthma going up, you see various cardiovascular diseases in the neighborhood, and it’s all because of this type of emission that’s in the air,” said East Phillips resident Joe Vital from ABC news.
According to the Sahan Journal, the EPA will be pursuing a civil enforcement action against the Smith Foundry, which could result in community member cash settlements, as well as consent decrees, fines and supplemental environmental projects from the Foundry. According to ABC News, the MPCA will also be holding a community meeting soon and Smith Foundry has stated to the public that it has hired a maintenance manager to make improvements to the building.