Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Ominous Graffiti on Block of Recent Tragic Shooting

Post by Jeff Skrenes, Hawthorne Neighborhood Council housing director.  Photo by Constance Nompelis.

I wish I could have attended today's press conference, but I already began today calling in sick to work because of a stomach illness.  That feeling was intensely compounded upon hearing of the tragic death of three-year-old Terrell Lamont Mayes Jr.  Words simply cannot express the sorrow and outrage that we all feel.  A baby is dead because someone had a stupid, foolish dispute that they had to settle with a gun.  In a year wherein Minneapolis has seen the age of shooting victims get younger and younger, this is about as heartbreaking as it gets.

At the press conference, we were told "the community has a job to do."  Even while we mourn, there will surely be hard work ahead for all of us.  One small job we can do is to call in graffiti to 311 or remove it ourselves.  Send the message to those who would do such a thing that these streets, these homes, this community does not belong to them.  This is a good neighborhood and a strong community, and now is when we show what we're made of.

On the same block where this shooting occurred, there is a vacant house with various graffiti that appears to be gang-related.  I wish I had seen this before and called it in, but a fellow north Minneapolis resident sent the picture my way.  It may be hard to see, but one part of the defacement says "Haywood City."  Many Hawthorne residents have quickly speculated that this refers to Haywood Eaton, another youth who was killed by gunfire in Hawthorne several years ago.  Another possibility is that it refers to an alias of the infamous Evannor Haymon, who was the scourge of the Hawthorne EcoVillage and sometimes used "Haywood" as a last name.

Gang-related graffiti is troublesome anywhere it rears its ugly head, but on a block where this tragedy occurred, this particular tagging is especially ominous.  We've called it in to 311 and asked that priority be given to its removal.  As we pick up the pieces after this week's event, let us start by comforting those who grieve and then begin to take back our streets to show that this is not a place where such acts are tolerated in the least.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Hawthorne's Letter to the MPCA Regarding Northern Metals

December 9, 2011

Re: Northern Metals Application for Major Permit Amendment

Dear Mr. Lynott, Minnesota Pollution Control Agency

Cc: Governor Mark Dayton, Senator Al Franken, Senator Linda Higgins, Senator Amy Klobuchar, Representative Keith Ellison, Representative Joe Mullery, Representative Bobby Joe Champion, 3rd Ward City Council Member Diane Hofstede

Hawthorne Neighborhood Council is adamantly opposed to the approval of Northern Metals Application for Major Permit Amendment as the more lax regulations they are seeking would have devastating effects on our community.

This organization, and the Hawthorne neighborhood at large, is on track for creating and maintaining healthier and greener lifestyles and practices. The Hawthorne Eco-Village is a testament to these efforts as we continue to encourage residents to build and live “green.” The pollutants and toxic particulates that stand to be released into our air if the amendment to Northern Metals’ current permit is granted can only damage a community that is not in a position to withstand or absorb any further harm. As Minnesota Congressman Keith Ellison stated in a letter to the Environmental Protection Agency in February 2011, “In low-income and diverse communities of color, the benefits of reducing toxic air pollution cannot be overstated as these communities already face higher than average rates of asthma, birth defects, and respiratory disease.” This statement was made in regards to mercury pollution, one of the toxins that Northern Metals currently emits and of which further relaxed standards would allow increased release. Furthermore, Northern Metals would like to be exempted from cleaning their surface areas should there be precipitation or snowfall in excess of one inch on any given day! Taking into consideration the duration and severity of our Minnesota winters, Northern Metals may not have to clean the area surrounding their operation on a regular basis for up to six months out of the year. This is not a reasonable request by any means.

Northern Metals acknowledges that there are some parks in the area (although they fail to make mention of all them). There are several in close proximity as well as two schools, a high rise dwelling for seniors and persons with disabilities, townhomes and single family homes that will undoubtedly be affected by the carcinogens and other harmful byproducts produced by Northern Metals. Residents of the nearby townhomes currently cannot even open the windows in their homes during the summer months due to the dust and the odors from Northern Metals. This situation will only worsen if the application to amend emissions and cleanup guidelines are relaxed. The area in which Northern Metals is located has been designated as a National Bird Fly Way. This fact has also been omitted from Northern Metals application. Further contamination from pollutants like mercury and hexavalent chromium (and the multitude of others detailed in their application) would be detrimental to supporting the wildlife that inhabits this area.

We understand that the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency will use comments received regarding this matter to determine if there is a need for an Environmental Impact Statement. We demand that this report be done!

The Mississippi River is an amenity that should be used, appreciated, and enjoyed by all residents of Minneapolis and walking and biking trails (especially the Grand Rounds Bike and Walking Path) have been developed for this purpose. Additionally, the Hawthorne neighborhood, along with several other North Minneapolis neighborhoods, has been working diligently to secure funding for a land bridge that would extend from 26th to 28th Avenues North and would connect North Minneapolis residents to the Mississippi River. If we are successful in this quest, this bridge as well as our walking and biking paths would actually abut Northern Metals’ facility and would end up exposing countless individuals to numerous poisons. Their application also does not appear to address the effects that additional emissions would have when considering prevailing winds that could significantly increase the areas potentially subject to contamination by Northern Metals’ increased output of toxins. The very fact that Northern Metals would like to extend their current hours of operation is reason enough for nearby residents to be concerned and angry as this would detract from their quality of life as they deal with additional noise and traffic. When you factor in the knowledge that an even greater amount of deadly chemicals will be released into our community it is beyond the scope of reason.

Economic development and success are very important to the Hawthorne Neighborhood Council, but it cannot come at the expense of our residents’ health. Virtually every plan for the Mississippi River being developed by the City of Minneapolis reflects the residents’ desire to move industry away from the river. The types of non-industrial businesses that we and other organizations are trying to attract to this area also reflect this trend. For example, Coloplast Industries produces medical supplies. How will an increase in toxic emissions affect their sterile standards?

We implore you to take our concerns into consideration as you review Northern Metals Application for Major Permit Amendment and deny their request regardless of the notion that their expected emissions may still fall within guidelines considered acceptable to the EPA.

If you have any questions, or would like additional information, please do not hesitate to contact me.


JoAnne Kelty Board Chair

Friday, December 09, 2011

Hawthorne Calls for Strong Environmental Regulations Along Mississippi River

Post and top photo by Jeff Skrenes, Hawthorne Neighborhood Council Housing Director.  Image from the Northern Metals Environmental Assessment Worksheet.

Northern Metals Recycling has applied for a permit to relax some environmental regulations at their site on Pacific Street and 28th Avenue North in Hawthorne.  The Hawthorne Neighborhood Council strongly opposes lessening environmental and health protections in our community.  The impact of such changes would be:

*       Additional air emissions

*       Increasing the air emissions limitation

*       Relaxation on emission standards

*       Increasing emissions used to extend outside the hours of Monday through Friday 7:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. and Weekend & holidays from 9:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m.

There are many provisions within the above-linked environmental worksheet that give Hawthorne residents serious pause.  Among them are:

Northern Metals has proposed to change the requirement to clean all primary roads, entrances,
internal roads, and exits once per day to a requirement to clean these areas “when necessary to
prevent particulate matter from becoming airborne.”
Instead, the Air Emission Permit will still require daily road sweeping and cleaning, but allows for exceptions when the roads are snow- or ice-covered, or if 0.1 inches of liquid precipitation fell in the last 24 hours. (p. 12)

 We worry that "when necessary" is far too subjective and that minimal cleaning during periods of snow and ice could lead to pollution concerns for a site adjacent to the Mississippi River.

Also on page twelve of the report, Northern Metals is requesting that a whole host of tests regarding particulate matter be reduced in their frequency or eliminated altogether.  We are gravely concerned about such diminished protections and support keeping them in place.  The proposal would allow Northern Metals to shred auto hulks and greatly increase their allowed hours of operation.

Section 11 on page 15 of the document references minimal impact on wildlife (due to the industrial area surrounding the site) and the permit amendment would not cause any environmental or land use conflicts.  While this may be presently true, it neglects to take into account the proposed redevelopment efforts underway through the Above the Falls master plan and the Mississippi Riverfront Design Initiative.  A Farview land bridge would extend to the River with 28th Avenue North as its northern boundary, and would border the plant.  Decreased environmental regulations and an increase in potential air and noise pollution are incongruous with the long-term development of the Mississippi River as a true community asset.

The Hawthorne Neighborhood Council is in the process of drafting a formal letter to the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency, and will post it here upon completion.  Comments to William Lynott (651-757-2542) must be received by December 14, 2011.  From those comments, the MPCA will be taken into consideration when deciding whether to require an Environmental Impact Statement.

Hawthorne demands that such an assessment be done.  We urge concerned residents throughout our neighborhood and Minneapolis as a whole to make that same demand of the MPCA.  Please contact both Council Member Diane Hofstede and the Hawthorne Neighborhood Council (Jeff Skrenes or Alexandra Jasicki, 612-529-6033) with your concerns as well.