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Jan 29, 2024

Press Release: Smith Foundry Lacks Essential Pollution Controls on Furnace

Community demands immediate shutdown until new pollution controls are in place

Shut Smith Coalition

January 29, 2024
Contact: Aaron Klemz, MCEA, aklemz@mncenter.org, 763-788-0282

MINNEAPOLIS, MN – In a document recently released by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Smith Foundry admits that toxic emissions from the foundry’s metal melting, pouring, and casting operations require new emissions controls to protect public health. Currently, emissions from the 2800 degree F metal melting furnace and the casting and pouring operations are not controlled by any hood, filter, or scrubbing device.

In a written statement submitted by Smith to EPA, and recently released in response to a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request, Smith’s consultants admitted that “initial modeling” indicated that “additional control device(s) will be required on the exhaust from the melt furnace, the pouring process, and other ancillary operations currently venting within the building or out an exhaust stack” (emphasis added). 

Cast iron foundries like Smith are known to emit carcinogens and neurotoxins including cadmium, chromium, lead, manganese, nickel, benzene, toluene, and dioxins. No testing for these airborne metal vapors, aerosols, and other chemicals has yet been performed at the Foundry’s roof vents, windows, or at the fenceline. 

Until now, both Smith Foundry and the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency have attempted to avoid action to assess and control pollution from the melt furnace. EPA’s inspection notes show that there is an exhaust fan above the furnace venting to the outside. Community members and members of the state legislature who requested a “stack test” to document pollution from the furnace have been met with silence from the agency or outright denial that it was even possible to test these emissions. 

Jolene Jones, White Earth Nation, Founder of Little Earth Protectors, said: “This is exactly what we have been saying for years – the toxic pollution from the foundry is poisoning our community. And to learn now that they’ve decided to control the pollution some time in the future? We reject that. The foundry must be shut because it is not safe.”

Without source controls, these pollutants and fumes from the molten metal escape into the workplace air where workers can be exposed by breathing contaminated air. These contaminants are not confined to the walls of the foundry - they escape through roof fans and vents, open doors, and windows, on contaminated clothes and shoes, and through faulty control devices, contaminating the surrounding community. EPA’s inspection report from the unannounced visit to the facility in May 2023 noted open windows venting contaminated air into the surrounding community. 

Documents referenced in this press release are available upon request, contact Aaron Klemz. 

Shut Smith Foundry Coalition statement:

The Smith Foundry must not continue to operate without the necessary controls on the toxic fumes from the furnace and the molten metal operations. The lack of care is shocking. The conditions in the foundry are harming the workers and the pollution is slowly poisoning the community. 

Furnace emission controls were first proposed by Smith management in a 1995 Good Neighbor Agreement intended to address community concerns. While this agreement was non-binding, Smith’s failure to follow through is yet another reason why the community is united in demanding that the foundry must be closed until the pollution ends. It is shameful that the foundry has been allowed to continue to operate until now without these necessary controls. Common sense dictates that thousands of tons of molten iron, laced with chromium, manganese, nickel, and other toxins should not be located next to a daycare, apartments, and residences, and definitely not without the best, modern pollution controls. 

We demand:

  1. Pollution controls must be installed at all emission sources, including the melting and pouring area, with ongoing monitoring that demonstrates performance within tight parameters. 
  2. Transparency in reporting performance to the community daily and monthly.
  3. Continuous emission monitoring to demonstrate full control of both aerosols and vapors from the plant. 
  4. Continuous emission monitoring inside the plant to demonstrate that workers' exposures are below the relevant occupational exposure limits for respirable silica and all other toxins. 

Until these demands are met, Smith Foundry must be shut down.