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'It Smells Dangerous': Whistleblower Tips Off MPCA About Northern Metals Violation

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) -- A whistleblower has come forward with new accusations against a recycling company with a history of problems.

The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency is asking the courts to immediately get involved after a Northern Metal Recycling employee said the company altered its pollution control equipment readings.

The saga surrounding Northern Metal Recycling in north Minneapolis has dragged on for people living nearby.

READ MORE: Northern Metals To Move Shredder Out Of Mpls., Settles Lawsuit For $2.5M

"In our neighborhood, we've all been under the understanding they've been polluting for a long time," resident Linda Marsh said.

The MPCA settled with the shredding company on another issue in 2017, ending in a $2.5 million fine. And the recycling company was supposed to close its north Minneapolis facility by August 1 and move to a new location. The court allowed Northern Metals to continue operating until the parties resolved its disagreement.

The facility is across the Mississippi River from Philip Harder's Bottineau neighborhood home.

"Now it's the end of August and it's still shredding," Harder said.

Northern Metals
(credit: CBS)

Court documents show an employee came forward on August 1 and said he was told not to write down pollution control equipment readings above a certain level. He instead alerted the MPCA. Documents show an inspector looked at the records and found alterations.

"It's about time someone had the courage to do that. That's not easy, I'm sure that's really frightening," Marsh said.

The documents include pictures of the readings, a filter and pollution control equipment. The MPCA said it "is extremely concerned about this latest development. Given the seriousness of this finding and out of concern for the health of our communities in north Minneapolis, the MPCA is asking the court to take immediate action and hold Northern Metal accountable."

Since announcing the lawsuit, the Minnesota Center for Environmental Advocacy has asked to join representing Community Members for Environmental Justice. The motion was filed Sept. 4.

"It's just putrid. It smells dangerous," Harder said.

A spokesperson for Northern Metal Recycling said, "We don't agree with the allegations and we will be responding accordingly to the court."

Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey said, "Northern Metals' conduct as characterized by the MPCA is a gross and intentional violation that punts the public trust of north Minneapolis and our entire city. The health and safety of Minneapolis residents is our core responsibility, and we at the city will continue working with the MPCA to hold Northern Metals accountable."

And lawmakers weighed in. Senators Kari Dziedzic and Bobby Joe Champion, along with Representatives Ray Dehn, Fue Lee, Diane Loeffler and Mohamud Noor released this joint statement:

We have serious concerns related to the most recent filing by the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) alleging Northern Metals was engaged in the '…systemic falsification of its pollution control equipment records.' The agency has gathered evidence suggesting that 'Northern Metals alters any pollution control equipment reading that exceeds the limits put in place by its operating permit.'

The health and safety of our constituents and the people of Minnesota is paramount. Given these allegations, we urge the company to cease operations until these matters can be properly investigated.

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