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'It's Time For Them To Get Their Act Together': Company Fined Over Pollution-Control Equipment

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) -- A Twin Cities plant that released a toxic chemical into the air for years faces new fines.

Water Gremlin paid $7 million in fines and was supposed to take corrective steps this spring. But now, the state says the White Bear Township manufacturer missed a deadline to test new pollution equipment.

READ MORE: 'We Want Answers': Water Gremlin May Have Leaked Carcinogen In White Bear Township For Years

WCCO-TV's Jennifer Mayerle explains why neighbors with health concerns want accountability now.

"We're simply asking for accountability," neighbor Sherri Smith said.

Smith and Kelly Tapkan are part of a larger neighborhood group concerned about the actions of Water Gremlin.

"We want to see their pollution control equipment operating as it should," Tapkan said.

The manufacturing company that makes fishing sinkers and battery terminals exposed the surrounding community to dangerous levels of the cancer-causing chemical TCE for years. Now it's using a less-toxic chemical called DCE. As part of a state agreement, it had 30 days to test new pollution control equipment.

"They haven't met that obligation. It's time for them to get their act together," Tapkan said.

READ MORE: A Community Shares Concerns Over Cancer Cases

Water Gremlin
Water Gremlin (credit: CBS)

Minnesota Pollution Control Agency Assistant Commissioner Craig McDonald said the state gave Water Gremlin two extensions. When the company wanted a third, the state instead imposed a $500-a-day fine.

"Water Gremlin has not been a good neighbor. They still have not gotten pollution control equipment up. Said it would be 30 days, we're far beyond that. Why continue to let them operate?" Mayerle said.

"We are allowing Water Gremlin to come back into compliance and holding them accountable and through the stipulation agreement, which they are in compliance with. We're giving them that opportunity," McDonald said.

Water Gremlin told WCCO-TV it's still working out the kinks:

Water Gremlin is working hard to achieve maximum efficiency with its new pollution control equipment. We believe that it is in the best interest of all stakeholders – the community, our employees, and the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency – to postpone the testing of this equipment because any data collected from the testing would not be representative of its long-term performance.

In the meantime, an independent third-party specialist continues to monitor our emissions and provide results to the MPCA. Since restarting operations, Water Gremlin has switched to t-DCE, a solvent that is not considered a hazardous air pollutant by the Environmental Protection Agency. We want our neighbors to know that their health and the environment are not at risk and remain our primary concern.

MPCA says it's imperative the pollution control equipment work as efficiently as possible to reduce DCE exposure. The community demands it.

READ MORE: MPCA Admits It Failed A Metro Community

"When you have such a long history of violations, we want to see them act as a responsible corporate citizen," Tapkan said.

The MPCA says there is no deadline for Water Gremlin to test the pollution control equipment. It would only step in if and when the company got close to releasing the yearly-allowed amount of the new chemical, DCE.

Water Gremlin said the testing will happen within the next two weeks. The company plans to alert the community before that happens.


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