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Jun 27, 2024

5 Things You Should Know About the Smith Foundry Settlement

This month, the Environmental Protection Agency announced a settlement with Smith Foundry in East Phillips, Minneapolis after several Clean Air Act violations were discovered in a surprise inspection last May. 

Here are five things you need to know about the settlement, MCEA’s involvement, how we got here, and what’s next. 


1. The settlement between the EPA and Smith Foundry stipulates that it will close its metal melting furnace, the most polluting of its operations, in the next 12 months 

Since signing the settlement with EPA, Smith Foundry has shut down two of its four pouring and cooling lines. The other two lines must close by June 3, 2025. Additionally, the company will pay an $80,000 fine to the federal government. The facility will transition to performing metal finishing work and will need to apply for a new permit. Settlements like this are rare. As Healthy Communities Director, Evan Mulholland says, “More typically, EPA resolves Clean Air Act violations with a monetary penalty plus additional reporting requirements.” 

2. People living in around Smith Foundry want it to shut down its furnaces immediately and plan a just transition for the workers 

Although the people living around the facility have been reporting the smells and poor air quality to the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency for years, having it confirmed means they are even more anxious to have the facility shut down all of its furnaces immediately. In a recent community meeting, a local parent stated that although a year may not seem like a long time, for her two year old going through important developmental stages, it could be devastating. 

Another year of operation with no testing or pollution control measures is unacceptable. If allowed to continue to operate, there should, at a minimum, be testing of the vents the pollution is emitted from. According to state law and the existing air permit for Smith Foundry, the MPCA has the power to request this testing. 

3. More than a decade of grassroots organizing in East Phillips created a strong advocacy network that was ready to act when the Sahan Journal broke the story that the EPA discovered these violations

The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency did not release the information about the EPA findings publicly for six months. Trust with the people living in the area eroded when they found out about the violations through a local newsource. East Phillips has been a sacrifice zone for industrial pollution, with air pollution permits grandfathered in that would not be granted under current regulations. Neighbors became skilled organizers after years of fighting against additional pollution from a city waterworks facility expansion and were ready to activate when these new violations were brought to light. 

Public meetings, demonstrations, and gatherings kept up the pressure on the agencies to take action. East Phillips is one of the most diverse neighborhoods in Minneapolis and these different perspectives helped organizers develop multiple tactics to advocate for the health of their community and environment. 

4.  MCEA helped lead the Shut Smith Coalition with Little Earth Defenders and the East Phillips Neighborhood Institute (EPNI)

MCEA had worked with the East Phillips community during their, now successful, efforts to build an urban farm at the Roof Depot site. This long standing partnership led EPNI to reach out to MCEA as a trusted source to help navigate the complexities of permits and what the violations meant. 

Our Healthy Communities Program Director Evan Mulholland came to MCEA with years of experience in Clean Air Act enforcement as the Compliance Bureau Director at the Air Division at the New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services as well as with the New Hampshire Attorney General’s Office. He and MCEA’s team requested documents from state agencies, reviewed them, and shared the key points from long and technically complicated reports with our partners in the coalition. One of the findings  that stood out most was that the foundry’s furnace and casting process was “uncontrolled,” meaning there was no filter nor any pollution mitigation device installed to reduce the impact of the Foundry’s casting operation on the public’s health.

5. You can take action

Hundreds of supporters have reached out to the MPCA to demand swifter action to better protect the health of East Philips residents.Today, we’re asking you to contact representatives from the Canadian holding company that now owns the foundry -  Zynik Capital – to tell them to act faster to shut down the most polluting parts of its operation. Take action with us and tell polluters they can’t operate with disregard for the health of Minnesotans.