There’s arsenic in the air near hundreds of homes in St. Paul—and
the issue is a simple fix.
The Southport Industrial District is a 99-acre area that’s home to
a metals recycling plant, chemical storage, and an impound lot. The industrial
site is near the West Side neighborhood on the bank of the Mississippi.
In 2015, residents in the West Side protested a planned expansion of the
chemical storage area, citing an already poor air quality. In response,
City Council asked the Planning Commission to study health and safety
issues in the area.
For their study, the Planning Commission used 3 months’ worth of
data from the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency. In 2014, the MPCA started
monitoring air quality in the area and found elevated levels of
arsenic and lead. Their sensor was placed at a church across the street from Southport.
Their study resulted in an 87-page report that was presented to City Council
last week. Surprisingly, the problem has a simple fix:
paving roads and
limiting the time trucks spend idling in the area.
The 2016 follow-up study on air quality found that metal pollutants weren’t
traveling very far—so the problem has stayed within Southport. However,
there are up to 474 housing units within a quarter-mile of the industrial
site. As a result, the MPCA will be monitoring the area through 2019.
Other Concerns About the Area
Residents also opposed other issues in Southport—specifically issues
regarding emergency management. Southport has a single exit that is sometimes
blocked by trains. So what happens if a train derails in the site?
Or worse, what happens if there’s a chemical spill and emergency
responders can’t get in?
In response, the Port Authority is applying for grants to build a bridge
over the railroad tracks—a project that currently projected to cost