Monday, September 11, 2006

Flame Metals "Feel the Fumes"

Public Comments on MDH Health Consultation

Below are the public comments from the health consultation done by the MN Department of Health regarding the Flame Metals facility in St. Louis Park (included is a pro-polluter comment from a neighbor).

The SOH Air Quality Commitee collected 151 petition signatures in one sweep of our neighborhood (which has 300 ttl houses) and handed it to the City of St. Louis Park. The petition stated that these neighbors are concerned about the health and well being of residents in the neighborhood due to the pollutants (in smoke and fumes coming from the Flame Metals Processing Corporations' facility located at 7317 W. Lake st in St. Louis Park - directly adjacent to the residentail section of our neighborhood. the petition asks the City of St. Louis Park to do everything in their power to protect the residents in the SOH neighborhood from poor air quality.

Within a block of the facility reside at least 11 children under the age of 9 years old.

Remember that toddlers breath around 5 times as many breaths per minute as an adult and toxicity levels testing on humans is done on healthy adult males in the early twenties, meaning that what may be safe toxicity level for a strong adult male, may not be healthy level of toxins for a child.

Also remember that;
even though an inconclusive health consultation has been written, an article has been written in a weekly newsmagazine outlining the situation, 151 petition signatures have been collected, hundreds of complaints have been logged since 2001, people have been complaining of symptoms for many, many years, the City of St. Louis Park has been monitoring the situation, there has been a community meeting between all parties, the facility has a horrible track record of air pollution in the neighborhood including air quality violations issue by the MPCA, the facility has air pollution equipment inside the building that it doesn't use, residents living directly adjacent do not have full use of their own property due to the smoke and fumes enveloping their house and properties, and there are children living dangerously close to obvious industrial smoke and fumes,
absolutely nothing has been done to alleviate the situation.

Thank you,

(father of a preschooler and a second grader who breathe industrial smoke and fumes daily)
Appendix 2
Public Comments Submitted to MDH
Comment #1:
I wish to make my comments about the Flame Metals Corp. located in St. Louis Park heard by
I have lived in close proximity to Flame Metals for over 11 years now and have a __ year old
daughter. The emissions' coming from Flame Metals is a real concern for us. They are not just
odors and a little smoke. At times the emissions can be over powering to the senses and
especially the lungs, eyes and throat. I have a real concern about what is being emitted and no
one seems to be able to tell me. I hope testing for what is being emitted is going to happen in the
very near future. I sleep with my bedroom window open for most of the year and the emissions
have even woken me in the middle of the night because they were so bad and made me close my
window. After 11 years of enduring this "nuisance" I am wondering what effect it is having on
my family’s health and me. In the recent past Flame Metals has raised the stacks on the rear of
the building, but that has just made it worse for us folks living up here on Edgebrook Drive. At
times when the weather pattern is different the emissions are a constant for us and there is no
escape. It also is a little unnerving that Flame Metals has decided not to cooperate with the
neighborhood residents and the city of St. Louis Park and that they now will only work with us
through their attorney. It does make one wonder what they have to hide. I have not made any
calls to report the fumes and the emissions, but if I would have, the list of complaints would be
fourfold what they are now. This matter is not just a health issue but it is a quality of life issue. I
have heard that the cement mixing plant about 3/4 of mile north of us was shut down because of
dust. Well, let me tell you that a little dust is nothing compared to what Flame Metals is putting
in our air for us to breathe. I also think that any level of any toxic material being emitted from
Flame Metals is unacceptable to the residents of South Oak Hill Neighborhood. It also makes me
wonder after living here for the past 11 years how much of the "emissions" has been retained in
my body or lungs and what effect that will have on my future health and the health of my family.
I respectfully implore you to act on this matter immediately and help us residents improve our
quality of health and of life.
Thank you for your time
Comment #2:
I moved into the South Oak Park neighborhood in May of 1980. Back then Flame had clouds of
very visible, white, foggy substance throughout the neighborhood and you couldn't be outside for
long and you’d best have your windows closed. The fire engines were there weekly. There were
trees along the boulevard of Taft from Lake Street to the building. They all died & were
removed. I had no idea the fumes were bad as I assumed the city was looking out for our best
interest. Okay, I later found out it is the state's job. Then someone was coming around from the
neighborhood letting us know that this was bad air and I signed the petition and sat idly by and
let them take care of the problem.
Well, the site was sited and fines were waived if they would add a smog hog. Of course since
they didn't apply the mister, it didn't work and is not being used. Huh! Didn't give that company
enough info to make the correct installation. (I spent an hour on internet/phone finding out what
would be needed for an air filter in that situation. I also found out that the machines they are
using are computer controlled (must have some data there) and can be set to conform with local
codes, (whatever that means) a few days after the meeting of November 9, 2004 at Louisiana
Oaks Pavilion. At the meeting every time Dennis was asked a question we would hear about
quenching from Jim. Learned way more about what flame does than I cared for, but the questions
really weren't answered or they would check into it as if they hadn't a clue. Flame was registered
with the MPCA before as an air emission source and got fined for (See Report.) and now they’re
not. Go figure. I haven't been calling when the fog or smell that arises from Flame lurks through
the neighborhood as I know xx will call. Sometimes at around 12:30 am, usually Friday or
Saturday nights, I smell something similar to battery acid. I haven't smelled it in the last couple
of weeks at that time, but I'll start calling to report it. Also, I really didn't see anything in the
current Health Consultation about the ammonia they're using as there's a big tank in the back of
the building. I believe it was mentioned that it was added in with the natural gas to create a
specific burn. So, have they been poisoning us or not? Just wanted to comment.
Comment #3:
I have been living in the South Oak Hill Neighborhood in St. Louis Park for four years. I have
two children, a __ year old and a __ year old. We live _____ from the Flame Metals Processing
Corporation; literally we are a stone’s throw from the facility. For the past four years we have
experienced, an estimated 1/4 of our time, not being able to be outside on our own property
because of the severity of the fumes. I smell the fumes every single day. Some days are tolerable
and some aren't. We experience smoke and haze regularly from the emissions. The smoke
normally doesn't linger and comes and goes. The haze on certain days tends to stick around. The
smoke, even though is intermittent, is a gagging smoke that chokes. It is an awful smell. We
experience a constant noise, that is like a wind tunnel, and a whining noise that is from the gas
going through the pipes on the outside of the building. So we have many issues in what I stated
above dealing with a health threat, property rights and a basic quality of life.
Why is it a problem for our family?
1) We have to constantly worry about the health of ourselves and especially our kids.
2) We have to call and police the situation, by logging complaints with the city of St. Louis
Park, MPCA and the facility itself.
3) It has taken many, many hours of labor of organizing to get to the point where we are now.
Those are hours we could've spent with our kids, or making money.
4) We cannot use our yard many, many days out of the year. Try explaining that to your __ year
old, who cannot go outside for fear of becoming sick.
5) We cannot plan social events on our property
6) It is embarrassing
7) If our health is being affected, we will have to lose work and spend our own money for
healthcare, if we get sick. Not to mention an early death due to illnesses or a generally poor health.
8) Air pollution has very detrimental effects on kids, which we all know
9) Our property value suffers, and we may have a difficult time selling our house if we are
honest with the buyers regarding the situation.
10) It may cost attorney fees in the future to resolve the situation.
11) We have experienced many symptoms, such as dry and irritated nose, mouth and throat,
shortness of breath, chest heat, dizziness, headaches (my __ year old has regular headaches,
which is unusual), and this spring when we had unrelenting fumes for more than a month and a
half at a time, my kids were both wheezing and I had a hard time doing normal physical
activities that I was accustomed to. In all cases, when the wind shifted and we no longer
experienced the emissions from the facility, or got a break for a couple of days, the symptoms
went away.
Health Consultation:
Generally, we are pleased with the recent health consultation. We feel that it raises many red
flags regarding possible health effects. The fact that Flame Metals is not cooperating, tells the
neighborhood that they have something to hide and strengthens our resolve to get the problem
fixed. We urge the MPCA to do comprehensive testing in order to find out what emissions are
actually coming from the facility. We won't feel safe unless we know what we are breathing. To
our neighborhood’s knowledge there has never been a comprehensive air test (stack test) to find
out what may be in the air. That should be priority #1. The testing should be as independent as
possible, as random as possible and as comprehensive as possible. We realize the difficulty in
testing the facility due to the numerous point sources of emissions. But that should in no way
exempt the facility in testing because of difficulty in testing and cost.
We also want to stress the point that the facility does not ever shut down. We don't get a break at
night. In fact, over the Memorial Day weekend, when there were no cars in the Flame Metals
parking lot the fumes were especially heavy. They did not turn off the furnaces or the blowers,
even though no one was operating the plant. At the very least we could get a break on holidays.
Our Memorial Day weekend was ruined due to the horrific fumes coming onto our property.
We feel that there should be a scientific health study of the neighborhood that would measure
long and short term health effects. Because of the symptoms that we log onto our complaints
with the City of St. Louis Park and the MPCA, we know that some of us have had negative
health impacts, whether it be a minor or a major concern it still should be looked into using the
proper methodology.
We are astounded that the facility has a "smog hog" installed in their building that doesn't work.
What is even more astounding is that though the air quality violation stipulation from 2001, the
"smog hog" was part of the agreement, but accountability was not part of the agreement.
1) If the MPCA required them to use a smog hog, they must've been concerned that there was a
problem with emissions.
2) It is hard to believe that a corporation that would spend tens of thousands of dollars on
equipment for their facility would buy something that doesn't work, unless they didn't want it to
work...hard to believe.
We are concerned about the many unreported fires that may or may not get logged by the
facility. In one ten day period this spring they had two reported fires in the facility. The city has
stated that they have many unreported fires. There has been a serious fire, since my family has
been living here. The city has informed us that they calculated that the facility uses what is equal
to 400 500 residential homes in natural gas. That signals quite a risk potential, especially with
the storage of hazardous materials and waste on site.
The location of the facility is a problem. It is simply too close to a residential neighborhood. The
health consultation mentions the proximity of the facility and other points, such as the slope of
the hill that makes the roofline level with houses, but I don't recall seeing anything that states
that it is too close. The proximity of an industrial heat treating facility to our neighborhood is
Something needs to be done, whether by the city, the state, or the facility to protect the health
and improve the quality of life for my family and other residents in the South Oak Hill
Neighborhood. After many years of long term residents breathing tetrachloroethylene, and the
many other contaminants that we are worried about today, we feel that thus far, neither the city,
nor the state has properly handled the problem on behalf of the taxpaying citizens living in our
neighborhood. There should be a buffer zone between the Flame Metals Processing Corporation
and our neighborhood (any neighborhood for that matter), or there should be a zero emissions
policy to protect the health of the citizens.
In addition, through this process I have found out that even though there are city nuisance
ordinances, and state regulations, as well as federal regulations, no one can come and shut down
a facility temporarily when a significant health threat is imminent. However, if your neighbor
has a bonfire or campfire in their back yard, someone can be there within minutes to put it out.
What is the difference between the smoke from a bonfire in a residential neighborhood and an
industrial heat treating facility that uses as much natural gas as 400 500 residential houses, and
burns numerous hazardous and potentially hazardous materials in many industrial sized furnaces,
where the smoke and fumes come directly out of the roof and into the lungs of the neighbors?
Thank you for addressing our concerns.
Comment #4:
I have been a close neighbor of Flame for 28 years. I live next door to __ & family, so I am
across the street and down __ houses on North St. Over the years I have witnessed blue clouds
blow across our yards directly from Flame, leave a residue on lawn furniture, and although
things have improved some, on days when the wind is blowing from an Easterly direction it is
similar to living behind a bus station.
Pungent whiffs of what reminds me of exhaust fumes cause headaches, sore throats, irritated
eyes, and a general sick feeling. I call it the 'Flame Flu' and on a warm, humid day it's 10 times
Why haven't we moved? Because we can't lie about Flame to a prospective buyer.
Please do something to help. I can't believe this is not damaging our health in some way.
Thank you!
I believe that further and complete testing of emissions from Flame should be done immediately.
We have put up with the inconvenience and health risks from this plant for decades. We have
been woken in the night by horrid unbearable smells coming from the Flame processing, we
have stepped outside to do yard work and immediately had to step back inside for the rest of the
day because the metallic smell and cloud from Flame was overwhelming, we have had to check
the wind direction reports so we could try to plan family get togethers in our backyard for a day
when Flame's emissions are not blowing our way, we have read the homes for sale listings and
started plans to sell our home on several different occasions because of the worry about Flame's
possible toxic effect on our family's health and due to the sheer aggravation of the continuing
blue smoke, metallic acrid smell, and our ensuing sore throats and watery eyes.
Flame commercial metal heat treating facility is noted by you as one of the largest of its type in
the Midwest. You state also that "available information on emissions from
similar operations in other states suggest that there is the potential for significant emissions."
You have already had an enforcement action against Flame for which a large amount of money
was to be spent by Flame to install an air cleaning system. The system they chose to install was
not appropriate for their type of operation and was therefore ineffective and was removed by
them. They are doing NOTHING to treat their emissions nor to contain their emissions to their
own property, in fact they have huge sections of their walls opened up to release their emissions
straight out the doors because it is too foul and hot for them to breathe it. The emissions are
annoying and harmful and Flame has effectively shirked their responsibility for their past and
their continuing transgressions.
You are currently relying on Flame's word that their emissions are below regulatory thresholds.
It concerns me that concentrations of tetrachloroethene were found in the emissions from Flame.
This is the chemical degreaser that was banned from use and Flame is not supposed to be using
it. Why is it then appearing in their emissions? Didn't they get the large fine because they still
used this chemical after it was banned? Are they currently using it? Since Flame has already
proved to be unreliable about reporting their emissions, they should not be trusted to self report
and instead testing should be done to guarantee that their emissions are of the amount and type
that Flame states that they are.
City staff stated in your report that perhaps some sort of centralized emission control or venting
system could be designed. This would certainly seem to be the logical solution and would
address the problem at its source. Flame could make considerable improvement to the air by
keeping their huge doors closed and cleaning the emissions before they left the building, but
Flame does not wish to pay for the cooling costs they would incur if they shut the building up
tight and controlled their emissions. Instead of taking responsibility for fixing their facility that is
causing the problem, they propose that the environment around them be adjusted, like building a
fence or raising the emissions above the level of the homes. We do not want the same old dirty
emissions to be released from a new direction, we want breathable air to be released from the
facility. Flame takes fresh air out of the neighborhood and they should be required to release
only similar air BACK INTO the neighborhood and the community.
The neighborhood did not cause this problem. Flame did. And Flame should be the one to adapt,
adjust, improve, and shoulder the cost of the problem that THEY are producing.
We don't throw our garbage onto their property and they should not blow theirs onto ours.
Comment #6:
I wanted to comment on the Health Consultation report on Flame Metals. My family resides in
the South Oak Hill neighborhood and we are several blocks away from the Flame Metals plant
and we have concerns regarding the emissions coming from this facility. On frequent occasions
we smell a very pungent odor, which makes it difficult to breathe easily and prevents us from
being outdoors as it is so unpleasant. Also, on several occasions we see a hazy smoke,
sometimes blue colored, coming from the direction of the plant. This often occurs in conjunction
with the odor. We hope this aids in your further studies of the safety of this facility.
Comment #7:
Good afternoon
I have been living in St. Louis Park near Flame since 1978. I have voiced several concerns to
the St. Louis Park City Hall in the past ten years concerning Flame Industries regarding the
fumes, air quality emitted from that facility. Unfortunately, nothing seemed to be done and I was
very upset. I am elated that someone is finally listening to the neighborhood in regards to their
disregard of what is coming from that business. I have noticed on many occasions the smoke
and vapor being released into the air from Flame. Quite of few times it seemed it was hard to
breathe and there was a distinct and very different odor. A lot of my friends and family won't
walk with me because of the difficulty and when some of them do, they cover their mouths and
face when walking past the facility. I sure hope that something is done with that business; I
would be overjoyed and quite a few neighbors would if it was shut down! Thank you for your
Comment #8 (transcript of a telephone message):
I live in St. Louis Park in the South Oak neighborhood. I just received information from MDH
on Flame Metals processing plant located in our neighborhood in St. Louis Park, and just wanted
to leave a real short message just to say that I walk by the plant often times with my dogs and my
son on walks. I don’t live close by the plant, I’m in the South Oak neighborhood so from my
house I can’t usually smell the emissions but most definitely, as I make my way closer going east
in the neighborhood there are certain days that I can’t smell much, but there are days that I can
smell quite a bit of odor emitting from the factory and that’s been a concern here for a long, long
time. I’ve been in the neighborhood now going on 8 years and this has been the first time I’ve
seen the Dept. of Health issue a statement or an investigation, if you will, both here and in
Rogers for the plant, but quite frankly and I know that there’s nothing that’s probably going to
amount to this, it’s just going to be a matter of them having to pay additional permits to get up to
code but it is not a location for a plant flat out it’s just too residential here, it doesn’t fit well with
the neighborhood here. I think that they should be out. I know that that’s not going to happen,
but it’s just too much that goes on there. Not to mention that they don’t even clean up some of
the garbage that is around the plant. There’s a pond that’s located to adjacent to it and many
times you see stuff out of their dumpsters floating into the woods and that’s never picked up, so
it’s just not a clean facility at all. I’m hoping that eventually it gets moved but I kind of doubt
that it will, but anyway that’s my two cents. Thank you.
Comment #9:
In regards to the report when I read "the sample may not have been collected immediately
downwind of the facility and the data may therefore not be representative of the emissions from
Flame Metals" why was it not collected downwind? When I read this your report, it really can’t
get much more evasive. What did they do for one hour?
If you want to collect air samples I would suggest the following:
1. Install a sensor in the smoke stack (like an O2 sensor for a car.)
2. Watch at night and on the weekend when they release most of the smoke.
3. If you would like to provide us with your home phone #s we will call you when the violations
are in process, so you can collect the samples you need.
While the tone of this letter may sound very condescending, please put yourself in our place and
read the letter you sent us. Words like "suggest" "may have not been" "may not have been
representative" "due to lack of data" don’t tell us anything other than the people who went out
there did not do the job that they have been paid to do. What needs to be done by your people is
collect the data, and make a report that makes sense. Not a lot of maybes and what ifs. The
bottom line is you need to do your job that the city of St. Louis Park and the taxpayers of St.
Louis Park have asked you to do. Thank you!
Comment #10:
Thank you for the opportunity to comment about Flame Metals in St. Louis Park.
I live at ___ West Lake Street just down the road from Flame and have lived here for fourteen
years. I am a jogger and run the neighborhood four to five times per week and do multiple laps
by Flame Metals. I have absolutely no problems with this company and would like to
complement them for the way they maintain their property.
According to the flyer you sent out, no health problems have been identified, no safety violations
have occurred, and you will do additional tests to make sure that everything is up to speed. That's
good enough for me.
When you say that "its estimated emissions are less than existing regulatory thresholds" and you
appear to responding to the complaints of a few (if I complain 10 times it is far different than if
10 different people complain), I think you are being used by a few to harass this business. I know
you have to check out potential health risks, and I'm glad you do, but you also have to be
mindful of how you can be manipulated.
I am an employee of ______ County and do not have ANY connection to Flame Metals (I
figured I better put some sort of disclaimer since I'm siding with the company).
Thanks again for the opportunity to respond.
Comment #11:
I live ________ from Flame Metals and have read the Health Consultation. It states what we in
the neighborhood already know: no one knows for sure what kind of pollutants Flame Metals is
emitting into the neighborhood. Testing is definitely needed and should be done as quickly as
feasible. Due to the major influences the environment (wind speed, direction, temperature
inversions, etc.) can have on how bad the fumes in the neighborhood are from day to day, I
would like to see testing performed at the stacks. This may not be the best solution unless the
tests can be unannounced where the facility is not able to stop or reduce any of their usual daily
functions. In the past we have seen a reduction in their emissions after/during large complaints
or meetings/visits with governmental agencies. Another option would be long term testing on
adjacent properties that can be taken when conditions are deemed to be similar to other times
when the emissions have warranted complaints by the neighborhood.
Below describes what effect living across the street from Flame Metals has had on my quality of
life and health. My neighbors have also described similar experiences.
When the wind blows into our neighborhood so do the emissions from the facility. These
emissions have a very foul odor that makes any outside activities unpleasant. You cannot even
have the windows open on your house on a nice day without having to experience the fumes.
Many times the fumes are accompanied by a thick haze. There have been times when it has been
difficult to see more than 2 blocks down the street. If windows are left open the haze even
becomes noticeable indoors.
The above-mentioned items are just the immediate effects of the wind blowing into our
neighborhood from the facility. It's the health effects that are of greater concern to me and most
of my neighbors. The facility's fumes cause my eyes to become dry, sore and itchy. My throat
will dry out and become sore as well. It becomes so bad that you cannot be outside in ones own
yard or have the windows open. Even more concerning is the nausea and dizziness that can
occur. There have been a number of occasions when I have been performing outdoor activities,
such as cutting my grass, where I have almost fainted. I have had to stop activity, go inside and
sit down for up to an hour until the symptoms would pass and I would not feel like I was going
to faint or throw up. As soon as the wind shifts and the fumes dissipate, all of the health
symptoms gradually subside.
My neighbors have experienced similar symptoms. I'm a __ year old, what concerns me even
more is the children. This neighborhood has many starter homes for new families. We have
children of various ages that live across the street from the facility. Children wait daily at the
school bus stop across the street as well. My fiancé and I wish to start a family soon but we are
very concerned about what affect the company's emissions may have on our unborn and newborn
Imagine not being able to invite friends over for a BBQ because you're not sure if fumes will be
blowing into the neighborhood that day. What if you couldn't have your windows open on a nice
summer evening because of noxious fumes coming in? Think about not being able to finish
cutting your grass or being afraid of going up a ladder because you're going to faint.
This facility definitely has an effect on the quality of life for the people living in the
neighborhood. What is even more concerning is that no one knows if the health effects are long
term. What we as the residents in the neighborhood deserve to know is: what is coming out of
the Flame Metals facility? Will these emissions have chronic health affects for us or our
children? Are the acute health effects acceptable (i.e. what if someone faints and falls when they
are on a ladder)?
One of government's core responsibilities is to protect the people. Thus the government creates
agencies to achieve this task. I ask these agencies to please protect our health and quality of life
and perform thorough testing of the Flame Metals emissions. Are living with unknowns worth
the risk?