The East Phillips neighborhood of Minneapolis is overburdened by pollution and is still being harmed by one of the most brazen and widespread urban polluters in Minnesota history. An insecticide manufacturer at East 28th St. and Hiawatha Ave. polluted the neighborhood with arsenic from the 1930’s to the 1960’s, resulting in a massive cleanup of contaminated residential yards. The area surrounding this Superfund site is recognized in state law as being overburdened by pollution. State law requires that no permit shall be issued by the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency in the area “without analyzing and considering the cumulative levels and effects of past and current environmental pollution from all sources on the environment.”
The City of Minneapolis has proposed building a new “Hiawatha Campus” adjacent to the former manufacturing site to house city offices and vehicles. The City of Minneapolis is scheduled to publish an environmental assessment worksheet detailing the environmental impacts of the Hiawatha Campus proposal in early 2021.
Given the history of pollution in their neighborhood, East Phillips residents have good reasons to be skeptical of proposals that may add to the air pollution in their community. It will take hard work, a willingness to listen, and complete transparency to earn their trust. MCEA will review the environmental assessment worksheet released by the City of Minneapolis and will communicate with residents so they understand the proposal, the process, and how they can have their voices heard.
This webpage is in development, and will be expanded to include information about the environmental review study, public meetings, and how to have your say on the proposal as it becomes available in 2021.
As a neighborhood that is 83% Black, Indigenous, and people of color, the East Phillips community would be expected to bear the brunt of the impact for the “greater good,” which is an unacceptable trade-off. Racism has recently been declared a public health emergency in Minneapolis.
- Letter from Erin Niehoff in MinnPost, joined and signed by MCEA
Key Timeline Events
Environmental review proposed after site cleanup completed
City of Minneapolis completes environmental remediation work on the former Roof Depot site. City engages a consultant to prepare the Environmental Assessment Worksheet.
Residential cleanup completed
U.S. EPA proposes a “partial deletion” of the residential cleanup Superfund site after completing remediation activities.
City adopts master plan for Roof Depot site
City completes project design and holds community meetings. The community urges the City to adopt a plan that allows for non-municipal use, but the adopted master plan does not provide this opportunity.
Roof Depot site purchased by City of Minneapolis
The City acquires the Roof Depot site for $6.8 million, with the main goal to “relocate water distribution employees and operations to one central site.”
Hiawatha Campus proposed, opposition grows
The City of Minneapolis begins negotiating with the owner of the Roof Depot with the eventual plan of relocating part of its public works department to the site. Around this time, community opposition grows. Neighborhood groups, such as the East Phillips Neighborhood Institute, seek to use the Roof Depot site for developing economic opportunities for the community. Visions include an indoor farm and a bicycle shop.
Environmental justice legislation passes
Rep. Karen Clark proposes and the Minnesota Legislature passes a law requiring cumulative and past pollution be analyzed in the vicinity of the CMC Site before the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency can issue a permit.
Residential contamination becomes Superfund site
US Environmental Protection Agency proposes the residential area surrounding the CMC site as a federal Superfund National Priority List site and dozens of yards are cleaned up in the surrounding area between 2008 and 2018.
CMC site redeveloped
Hiawatha Business Center is built on the CMC site after cleanup is completed.
Residential contamination uncovered
Testing of residential yards reveals widespread arsenic contamination in East Phillips and surrounding neighborhoods from the CMC site. Subsequent followup testing reveals that dozens of residential yards in East Phillips pose an acute risk to human health.
Cleanup of the CMC site by the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency begins
Site contamination uncovered by road construction
The Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT) discovered the arsenic contamination at the CMC Site in 1994 when investigating the Hiawatha Avenue corridor for reconstruction.
Arsenic liquid spilled on site
A storage tank containing liquid sodium arsenite ruptures at the CMC Site, releasing approximately 3,000 gallons of liquid sodium arsenite onto an area of approximately 1,000 square meters.
Insecticide factory pollutes surrounding neighborhoods with arsenic
Open air conveyor belts used to offload arsenic powder allow arsenic dust to be blown off-site into the surrounding neighborhood. The site is operated by a number of companies throughout the years, and becomes known as the CMC Heartland site.