New Pollution at Superior Plating in NE Mpls. Could Hold up Major Housing Project

Updated: 03/06/2014 7:19 AM By: Beth McDonough

An unexpected find at a vacant plant in Northeast Minneapolis is creating new problems. 

A pollution problem could hold-up plans to build a major housing and retail complex at the vacant Superior Plating plant along First Ave. NE. and University Ave. 

It's close to the Mississippi River and across the bridge from downtown Minneapolis. 

From the outside of the building, you can't tell there's a pollution problem. But a look inside, reveals piles of pollution like asbestos in the roof and trenches full of sludge according to the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency. They oversee the project. 

Half a century's worth of hazardous industrial garbage concealed under flooring at Superior Plating. "

This is something you should have found, you should have known about it, it wasn't hiding," according to Victor Grambsch. As President of the local neighborhood association he's keeping tabs on what happens there.

When Superior Plating went bankrupt investors, called First and University, bought the deserted site in 2012. Testing by MPCA confirmed some of the five-acre area was contaminated, no one knew how much until recently. That's when demolition crews stumbled upon all the toxic trash. 

Clean up costs were originally estimated to be about $3 million, but as the pile of debris grew so did the cost, it's now double that, to $6 million.

Until now, the owners have paid for remediation from their own pockets. "However it might come to a standstill if they don't get the funding until they acquire that funding," Candace Sykora of the MPCA told KSTP reporter Beth McDonough.

But because of new pollution, the private owners insist they need more money, public dollars in the form of grants, from the county, state and Met Council.  A developer, DLC from Florida, signed a letter of intent to buy the land and build in-demand housing there, but there's a catch: the re-development deal hinges on a hazardous-free site.

The MPCA told us if the owners don't get the grants and can't afford the clean-up, it could take over the site as part of its Superfund Program. But every penny spent would be taxpayer dollars. The MPCA did reassure KSTP there is no risk to the health of nearby residents or the environment.

After demolition, contractors will excavate the soil, treat it with chemicals and ship it to an industrial landfill in small batches to avoid having the contaminated soil exposed to the air for any length of time.