Flame Metals

Flame Metals Health Consultation
The final Flame Metals Health Consultation (dated August 12, 2005) is now available below. The final document incorporates public comments received during the comment period. A copy can also be obtained by contacting the Site Assessment and Consultation Unit: Contact us. A Health Consultation is a report that assesses public health concerns and makes recommendations for evaluating or reducing people's exposures to hazardous substances.

Health Consultation:

Where is the facility located?
Flame Metals Processing, Inc. (Flame Metals) is a metal heat-treating facility located at 7317 West Lake Street in the City of St. Louis Park, Minnesota. The facility is located in a mixed commercial/industrial and residential area, with single-family homes located immediately to the west (the South Oak Hill neighborhood). The facility is located at the base of a hill, creating a small valley along one side of the facility. Some residences are located on the top of the hill next to the facility, putting them on the same level as the roof of the facility.

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What does the Flame Metals facility do?
At the facility, fabricated metal parts from outside suppliers are heated to between 1600 and 1700 degrees Fahrenheit in large furnaces, quenched (cooled) in oil, washed, and tempered. Tempering involves heating metal parts at lower temperatures to produce a specified level of hardness.

The furnaces discharge emissions either directly outside through roof vents, or into the indoor air and then outside through vents or open doors. There is no central emissions collection or control system. The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) does not require an air emissions permit for this facility, as its estimated emissions are less than existing regulatory thresholds.

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Why is MDH evaluating the facility?
Over the last few years, residents have complained about smoke, fumes, and particulates coming from the facility. They are also concerned about health effects from exposure to air emissions from Flame Metals. The City of St. Louis Park and local residents requested that Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) staff evaluate these emissions and their potential health effects.

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What do we know about emissions from the Flame Metals facility?
At the current time, no test data are available for MDH to evaluate the actual emissions. MDH staff did review other information that suggests what could be in emissions from the Flame Metals facility.

In response to a complaint received from an employee of Flame Metals, in 2004 the Minnesota Department of Labor and Industry, Occupational Safety and Health Division (OSHA), conducted an investigation at the facility. The purpose of the investigation was to determine compliance with workplace safety regulations, not to characterize emissions. Carbon monoxide and total particulates were detected at levels below the workplace standards. Because no violations of workplace standards were observed, OSHA concluded the investigation.

In response to continuing complaints from residents, in September 2004 the MPCA arranged with the City of St. Louis Park to collect a one-hour ambient air sample across the street from the facility. No visible smoke was observed coming from the plant while the air sample was being collected, but the sampler reported a 'faint metallic odor'.

The sample was analyzed at the MPCA laboratory for 58 volatile organic compounds (VOCs). Multiple VOCs were detected in the air sample, most of them at concentrations below one part per billion (ppb) by volume. Many of the VOCs are commonly found in the urban environment as a result of vehicle emissions and other sources. Of the VOCs detected in the air sample, only benzene, 1,3-butadiene and tetrachloroethene were detected at concentrations that may exceed MDH standards or criteria for evaluating VOCs in air. 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.

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Do the emissions pose any health risk?
The Flame Metals facility operates on a continuous basis. Given the number of complaints received, as well as the different reported causes for the complaints (smoke, fumes, odors, etc) it appears that the emissions from the facility that are the subject of complaints from neighbors may be related to the constant operation of the furnaces, rather than only from the brief periods of smoke observed during loading or unloading of metals parts from the furnaces. The oil used to quench metal parts is known to release carbon monoxide and hydrocarbons when it breaks down from extreme heat or burning. According to the manufacturer, overexposure to the oils via inhalation may cause "irritation, headache, nausea, and/or drowsiness." Other gases and particulate matter could also be released when the oil is heated or burned, and some of the furnaces also operate under conditions that could add carbon monoxide and other gases to the emissions.

Due to a lack of data regarding the quantity and makeup of the emissions, MDH is unable to evaluate the potential public health effects from exposure to the emissions at this time.

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What does MDH recommend?

  • Facility emissions and concentrations of the pollutants in the adjacent residential neighborhood should be estimated. Emissions data are needed for carbon monoxide, particulates and other gases.
  • If ambient air samples are collected, this should be done under conditions when emissions might reasonably be expected to drift in the direction of the collection vessel.
  • Interim actions that could lessen or mitigate the likelihood of emissions from the facility reaching the adjacent neighborhood, such as raising stack heights, should be considered.

Printable information sheet: Flame Metals Processing, Inc. Facility, St. Louis Park, MN (PDF: 66KB/1 page)

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Where can I get more information?

If you have other questions regarding the Flame Metals facility, please contact us.

Updated Thursday, 15-Dec-2011 08:41:58 CST