MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) -- Lawmakers are taking action to make sure another Water Gremlin doesn't happen. The manufacturing plant in White Bear Township endangered the community and raised several pollution concerns.
WCCO's investigations over the last year revealed some of the failures that led to the proposed legislation. Our reports found regulatory agencies don't have enough power or inspectors. We exposed gaps in communication sharing among agencies and a need for worker protection. Now legislation is being introduced to address those issues.
Pollution violations at Water Gremlin began with the elevated release of a chemical, TCE, known to cause cancer and birth defects, and the problems at the White Bear Township plant only grew.
"We are taking steps this legislative session to prevent public health disasters like what happened at Water Gremlin from happening in other communities and holding companies accountable if they do happen," DFL Representative Ami Wazlawik said.
WCCO reported on the community health impact, new pollution discovered, and we found lapses in communication sharing among state agencies, along with a lack of enforcement power.
Only after WCCO reported Water Gremlin workers unknowingly transferred lead from the plant home, poisoning some kids, did the state temporarily shut the company down, resulting in court oversight.
DFL Representatives and Senators banded together to tackle the issues, starting with a state ban on TCE. Wazlawik was joined by Rep. Peter Fischer, Rep. Jamie Becker-Finn, Sen. Jason Isaacson and Sen. Chuck Wiger
"We're also working on a package of legislation that will improve enforcement, hold polluters accountable, strengthen worker protections and expand opportunities for impacted communities to have their voices heart," Wazlawik said.
The community has demanded better for their neighborhood and the state.
"What happened to the White Bear area community was significant and it was significantly wrong and if we can find some change that can help protect others as a result of it then that can be a good thing," Leigh Thiel, member of a concerned citizens group, said.
Ten or twelve bills will be introduced to start. It's a significant number to resolve the issues exposed through Water Gremlin.
"I think that we saw a need for this much legislation because there were so many things that we need to fix," Wazlawik said.
Some of the bills are expected to be dropped Thursday or Friday. Language is still being worked out on others. Lawmakers say these bills are just the beginning.
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