Clean Up Our Air: Shut Down the HERC Trash Burner

Dominique Diaddigo-Cash

Hennepin County connects an abundance of diverse & lively communities from Minneapolis to the suburbs and outlying cities. Yet some of us are getting sick because of the dirty air we breathe.

One of the biggest polluters in the County is the HERC trash burner, and with the passage of 100% clean energy climate legislation, now is the time to shut down the dirty, non-renewable, Hennepin County trash burner.

Add your name to tell County Commissioners: shut down the trash burner.

Beverly Propes, school nurse with Minneapolis, who has been fighting the HERC as she noticed students near the HERC having worse asthma. Photo Credit: MN EJ Table
Beverly Propes, school nurse with Minneapolis, who has been fighting the HERC as she noticed students
near the HERC having worse asthma. Photo Credit: MN EJ Table

There are forty-five cities in Hennepin County. Forty-five cities with over 1.27 million people calling them home. These people are parents & children, youth & caretakers, friends, neighbors, business owners, artists, immigrants, all of the above, and so much more.

Together we want to keep our home safe, with clear air and water. Yet, right now, community members across Hennepin County are suffering needlessly from illness caused or exacerbated by pollution.

Economic inequality and racism allowed for several toxic facilities to be located in our poorest communities. One of these facilities is the Hennepin Energy Recovery Center (HERC), the state’s largest trash incinerator, located near North Minneapolis amid neighborhoods, daycares, and places of worship. HERC is owned by Hennepin County and operated on their behalf by Great River Energy.

Under their shared supervision HERC burns 1,000 tons of trash per day, enough trash to fill up 11 Twins stadiums. This isn’t just trash from Minneapolis; it is the collective waste of half the residents and business of Hennepin County from Bloomington to Minnetonka, it's our trash that is being burned.

The HERC incinerator is a false solution branded as “clean & green.” This is far from the truth. In burning our trash, it produces some energy, but it also emits mercury, lead, carbon monoxide, and dioxins (cancer-causing chemicals) into the air daily, poisoning the air of the neighborhoods near it.

North Minneapolis has been on the front lines fighting the HERC and the harm it causes for decades.

HERC is 34 years old, originally completing construction in late 1989. This is significant because trash incinerators, on average, have a life expectancy of 30 years. HERC is already past its due date and needs solid plans to transition away from its use. For over 30 years, community members at the front lines of this fight have been persistent about the harm HERC has caused to their health. Asthma rates in children living in the 55411 Zip Code are five times the national average. Community members also suffer from the presence of other polluting facilities in their communities, like Northern Metals & GAF (Roofing Manufacturer), as well as major traffic coming from the I-94 corridor. Closing the HERC is a clear way to address the northside's cumulative and deadly pollution.  

The pollution that leaves the HERC is not restricted to the North Minneapolis community. According to available air-modeling data from the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency, emissions from the HERC contribute to the cumulative pollution of the whole metro area.  

We will need each of us to shut down HERC because it is a problem that affects us all.

The first step in repairing that harm is to shut down the facility and finally put the health & well-being of people first. Hennepin County is made up of forty-five cities & over a million people; each and every one of us deserves to breathe clean air!

Momentum is on our side. The new 100% clean energy law, correctly codifies the HERC as non-renewable energy, which will help force its retirement and makes it much less financially viable.

Right now your County Commissioners, folks we elect and whose salaries we pay, are working on a zero waste plan. Setting a shutdown date should be an essential part of this zero waste plan.

Please sign the petition so our elected leaders know: folks from Bloomington to Brooklyn Park want clean air and a true zero waste plan.