MPCA / Northern Iron and Machine

Permit violations at Northern Iron and Machine

Northern Iron and Machine is a foundry located in our midst at 867 Forest Street at Wells Street.  Northern Iron emits various air pollutants, including lead and fine particulates. The area around the Northern Iron foundry is known to have high levels of childhood lead exposure.  For over a decade, Northern Iron operated with equipment that was not included in its air permit issued by the State of Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA). Last Fall, MPCA announced that they fined Northern Iron LLC $41,500 for air quality violations and they are now requiring Northern Iron to produce updated emissions modeling and apply for a permit amendment.

Link to MPCA Press release: Northern Iron STIP news release_FINAL_

Take Action

Detailed information is available

Through a public records request, community members recently obtained documentation from the MPCA about Northern Iron’s violations and updated emissions modeling by state environmental officials. Their modeling is still in development, but the documents show that emissions may exceed what was expected. Anyone is invited to access those documents here.

Our April 23, 2024, Community Meeting was primarily focused on Northern Iron and Machine. Alex Lawton, CEO Lawton Industries (the owner of Northern Iron and Machine) was present and answered questions.  Minutes from that meeting to be posted soon.

On May 22, 2024, the MPCA, the MN Department of Health, and Ramsey County Public Health held a public meeting. The presentation can be viewed at presentation of 5.22.2024

Our call to action

The Payne-Phalen Community Council has been notified by the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) about permit and emissions violations at a large metal and brass foundry located in the Payne Phalen neighborhood, Northern Iron and Machine located at 867 Forest Street.  Last fall, Northern Iron LLC was fined $41,500 by MPCA for air quality violations.  MPCA officials came to PPCC’s Community Meeting in November 2023 to listen to our Board and take their questions.  At that time, our Board called on MPCA for three things:

  • The Payne-Phalen Community Council called for immediate notification by MPCA via US Mail of all households and businesses within 10 block radius of the Northern Iron facility.  As of April 4, 2024, MPCA has not done this.
  • The Payne-Phalen Community Council called for immediate installation of two air quality monitors as promised by MPCA.  As of April 4, 2024, one has been installed but is only intermittently working because of electrical feed is not stable.  PPCC has not been notified as to when a second air quality monitor will be installed.
  • The Payne-Phalen Community Council called for Legislative Rule changes to allow all fines related to Northern Iron and Machine to be directed back to community health facilities in Payne-Phalen, particularly those treating childhood asthma.  MPCA informed us that we would need to take that up with the MN Legislature ourselves.

Beyond our specific request of MPCA, we are working on matters on our own and with others:

  • Our Council has convened a working group to share the responsibilities and make progress in this direction.
  • We are pursuing and continuing our engagement with allies, partners, and volunteers in the public health and EJ space.
  • PPCC is working to ensure elected officials are aware of, and support appropriate action on this polluting facility.
  • We are trying to stay abreast of bills and developments in the 2024 legislative session and we offer our support and insights as needed.
  • With the help of our Council and volunteers, we are doing our best to dig into complex, expert technical information so that we can continue to speak truth to power and bring information to our communities.
  • PPCC is trying to stay abreast of conversations and community action related to other foundries in the area, particularly the Smith Foundry in South Minneapolis and the St. Paul Foundry in Frogtown.

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