Watch CBS News

Community members continue to call for closure of Smith Foundry in Minneapolis

Smith Foundry to stay open despite concerns
Smith Foundry to stay open despite concerns 02:03

MINNEAPOLIS — State agencies are not going to shut down a controversial metal foundry in the middle of a Minnesota community.

Community members in the East Phillips neighborhood of Minneapolis are still calling for Smith Foundry's closure, saying its emissions are putting their health in danger.

Tania Rivera works at a daycare around the corner from the foundry.

"It's really scary for us to have to be working there and taking the kids outside and not knowing what they're being exposed to," she said.

After violating air quality standards last year, regulators say testing from December showed levels in compliance with Smith Foundry's permit.

Still, the Environmental Protection Agency isn't finished with the foundry.

"That's what we're moving to correct — absolutely they were emitting too much," Brian Dickens with the EPA said at one of two public meetings Wednesday. "That's what we said and that's why we're here and doing all our work. All the engineers are moving toward compliance."

MORE NEWS: University of Minnesota Dance Team rallies around dad after cancer diagnosis

In the meantime, environmental activists want Smith Foundry to be shut down.

Neighbors say they don't trust the foundry to stay in compliance, or regulators to keep them safe from harmful pollutants like lead.

"They don't listen to this community when we said last summer we couldn't breathe, that there were black clouds over Little Earth," said Jolene, an Indigenous neighbor. "Nobody listened to us."

Katrina Kessler, the commissioner of the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency, says facilities have the right to stay open as they work through compliance.

"At this point, we and EPA...Do not have the evidence to warrant [closure] under the law," she said.

Community members say they aren't giving up.

"Asking for evidence of progress is meaningful," said Dr. Susan Arnold with the University of Minnesota's Division of Environmental Health Sciences. "It's bringing about progress, and so keep that up."

In a statement, Smith Foundry's president, Adolfo Quiroga, said:

"The test results, in addition to the surprise MPCA inspection we passed in November, confirm that Smith Foundry is meeting the state and federal standards for air quality. I want people to know that we are committed to ensuring clean air and providing people in Minneapolis, including the East Philips neighborhood, with well-paying, good union jobs.  I believe that the test results and the repairs, improvements, and investments we've made since purchasing Smith Foundry 13 months ago demonstrate that commitment. We look forward to continuing to work with state and federal regulators and engage with the community as we continue to complete our application for a new air permit."

View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.