Community Organizing for Environmental Justice on Saint Paul’s West Side

The Sierra Club is seeking to ensure a proposed new sewage incinerator near the West Side neighborhood of Saint Paul is an environmentally just decision. Together with the West Side Community Organization, the Sierra Club is supporting west siders and people across the Metro in joining together to ensure the community has a seat at table.

On the West Side, generation after generation has been exposed to environmental hazards, air pollution, and being treated as a dumping ground for toxic waste.

West siders know it’s no coincidence that across the country and right here at home, polluters set up shop in neighborhoods where immigrants, Black and brown folks, and working class people live – assuming we won’t speak out. But we have the right to be part of the decisions that impact the health and future of our families. 

Join us in ensuring the proposed new sewage incinerator is an environmentally just decision.


Photo of  Metropolitan Wastewater Treatment Plant (Metro Plant) in Saint Paul from Metropolitan Council
Photo of Metropolitan Wastewater Treatment Plant (Metro Plant) in Saint Paul from Metropolitan Council

Community Inclusion & Leadership

Sierra Club Healthy Communities is allying with community organizations to fight back against the historic exclusion of communities of color from public decision-making processes. When we build solidarity and listen to impacted community organizations, we have the power to hold public agencies accountable to equitable decision making.

What’s a Wastewater Incinerator?

The Metropolitan Wastewater Treatment Plant, operated by the Met Council, is the largest wastewater treatment facility in Minnesota, serving all metropolitan counties. It features three incinerators (or waste burners) and treats 180 million gallons of wastewater every day.

Wastewater from 86 communities across the Metro is treated here – meaning we are collectively responsible for this and all benefit from greatly improved water quality – but the West Side is bearing the impact.

Potential Health or Environmental Risk

The Met Council reports that the existing incinerators have an exceptional track record of environmental compliance. They operate at well below the new, most stringent standards established by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for new incinerators.

However, air emissions from the plant include nitrogen oxide, breathable particulate matter, mercury, and organic compounds, all of which can contribute to respiratory illness, short and long term health impacts, and contribute to global warming.

Our goal is to ensure that even with the addition of a new incinerator, the plant continues to operate at or below EPA standards for incinerator pollution and that community concerns are heard and addressed.

Proposed Expansion Near West Side

In order to meet the needs generated by expected population growth the Met Council wants to build a fourth incinerator. The Met Council says that building a new incinerator in the same location as the existing three incinerators is the most cost effective and will continue to meet air quality standards.

To research the impacts of the facility, the Met Council  has written a Environmental Assessment Worksheet (EAW), and submitted it to The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA). Once the MPCA has revised the EAW, a draft of it will be available to the public. Ultimately, in order to expand, the Met Council will be required to amend their existing air permit. 

Information Gathering

The Sierra Club is seeking information and will review the draft Environmental Assessment Worksheet when it is made public to ensure that this project does not continue or expand on previous wrongs, like expanding pollution in lower income communities of color.

Once the EAW is public, the MPCA will host public comment periods on it and the draft air permit. The Sierra Club and West Side Community Organization are working to organize community members so they know about the project and are able to get their questions answered, concerns addressed and have a seat at the table.

Get Involved

All of us living in the metro are a part of this project – when we turn on the sink, the hose or use the bathroom – we are relying on the Met Council’s services. Collectively we are responsible for ensuring the expansion is done right and does not further the continuation of environmental injustices, like placing additional pollution in communities of color.

We are seeking to organize interested community members now. We want to be ready to submit comments or request meetings once information about the proposed expansions’ possible impacts becomes public.

Sign-up for updates here. Together we can build solidarity across difference to ensure West siders and all of us have a seat at the table.   

With questions Contact Sierra Club Healthy Communities organizer, Dominique Diaddigo-Cash,