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News & Views of Phillips Since 1976
Thursday February 22nd 2024

Hazardous Air Pollution Allowed to Continue in East Phillips

By KAREN CLARK, Former MN State Rep. and H. LYNN ADELSMAN

November 10th, 2023: Our neighborhood demands answers from Smith Foundry! PHOTO: Peter Molenaar

November 10th, the night after celebrating the victory of raising $3.7 million (which the City demanded East Phillips Neighborhood pay in order to sign the purchase agreement for the Roof Depot site) neighbors and allies rallied, temporarily closing E. 28th St. to demand that Smith Foundry be shut down. Smith Foundry is located across 28th Street from the former Roof Depot site.
The Neighborhood learned that a surprise U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) investigation found flagrant air pollution safety violations at Smith Foundry which endangers both workers and residents’ health. That inspection happened in May, but residents just found out about the findings in November.
The MN Pollution Control Agency did not inform residents even though the federal EPA report called for penalties – including possible civil or criminal charges against the Foundry. So East Phillip’s struggle for environmental justice, basic public health protections, widens and grows more urgent. Expect this Neighborhood to continue their environmental justice fight!

Accountability and No Comment
At the very least, the MPCA needs to be held accountable, to commit to a public awareness campaign to alert residents, daycares, and schools during high levels of unsafe air quality on the same day it’s happening; similar to the 2023 high smoke alerts from wildfires. While this is not as predictable, it is just as necessary given the high number of elders, children and residents with health problems living near Smith Foundry.
Peter Molenaar, who worked at Smith for over thirty years, speaking at the Friday rally said, “What happens inside the foundry affects both workers and the community.” Molenaar noted an extensive list of employees who he worked with who had passed away “before their time”, from “mysterious” cancer deaths and lung conditions, and wondered who is operating the Smith safety and maintenance programs inside the foundry.
Finally, why did the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) inspect Smith Foundry when we have a state agency charged with the task of reducing air pollution – why didn’t MPCA investigate? And why isn’t there any comment from the MPCA to say compliance with permits for Smith are necessary, noting the importance of operating and monitoring pollution control devices? Why is there no response from MPCA?
East Phillips Neighborhood Initiative, Little Earth Protectors, the Democratic Socialists of America Twin Cities Chapter, Climate Justice Coalition, Minnesota Immigrants Rights Action Committee, Community Members for Environmental Justice, the Minnesota Center for Environmental Advocacy, and East Phillips Improvement Coalition co-hosted the rally.

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