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Pouring iron castings at Northern Iron & Machine, St. Paul, MN.

Foundry Told to Comply with Emissions Standards

April 18, 2024
Northern Iron & Machine is under a 30-day order by the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency to reduce lead and particulate matter releases, based on new modeling data.

The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency is requiring Northern Iron & Machine to reduce its lead and particulate matter emissions and comply with national air-quality standards by May 16. It is the latest development in an ongoing confrontation between the state environmental enforcement agency and the St. Paul foundry.

“The MPCA has been working with the new owners of Northern Iron to address these likely exceedances and is requiring the company to reduce its emissions of lead and particulate matter to meet air-quality standards within 30 days,” according to the agency.

Lawton-Standard acquired Northern Iron & Machine in August 2022.

Northern Iron produces and machines gray iron, ductile iron, and austempered iron castings up to 250 lbs., which it supplies to industrial equipment builders, oil-and-gas exploration operations, commercial vehicle manufacturers, and locomotive and off-highway machinery builders.  

The new order follows a $41,500 fine that MPCA levied in February, stating Northern Iron had failed to properly report changes to the pollution-control systems during the previous two decades. At that time, an agency spokesperson said new air-emission modeling had determined that the foundry is emitting lead and particulate matter at levels “above national ambient air quality standards.”

Last October, the agency announced its investigators discovered that, over 15 years, Northern Iron had “removed, modified, or replaced pollution control equipment” throughout the plant without seeking required amendments to its air-quality permits. During that time MPCA had conducted five inspections at the foundry but the company never reported changes to the equipment, as required by its permit.

The agency’s investigation started in 2020, in the course of an effort to update the permit issued in 2002. Three separate applications to amend the permit were incomplete, according to MPCA, and Northern Iron and the state entered into an agreement at that time concerning the foundry’s compliance with emissions standards.