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'Public Health Nuisance': Water Gremlin In Court Over Lead Concerns

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) -- New pollution problems for a manufacturing plant surfaced the same day the company restarted operations and headed back to court.

As workers got back on the job, Water Gremlin was slapped with orders to remedy years of hazardous waste problems. A judge heard how lead clean-up operations are going at Water Gremlin.

At issue in court id how Water Gremlin is doing cleaning up the lead that landed them in front of a judge. After being shut down for a week, the company retrained employees and started cleaning their cars to eliminate lead they may have taken home. The judge is calling it a "public health nuisance."

"The migration of lead is an unreasonable interference with the public's right not to be exposed to lead," Judge Leonardo Castro said.

Water Gremlin shared that even after cleaning some cars, they can't get below the set safe level in some cars -- and that's a concern for the state.

"We need to make sure they're getting cleaned to an acceptable level for children's health," Pete Surdo, attorney for the state, said.

"We might be able to get to 40 in the seats in general in the passenger area, but to get to 40 on the carpet on the driver's side is just not going to be feasible," Water Gremlin attorney Thaddeus Lightfoot said.

The company will have to do more and will replace floor mats to cover areas of concern on the driver's side.

Employees went back to work at the manufacturing plant that makes fishing sinkers and battery terminal posts on Wednesday.  It was the same morning the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency mandated immediate changes regarding hazardous waste, alleging the company failed to comply with regulations that minimize a possible release.

During three inspections in September, the MPCA found a number of violations including spilled hazardous chemicals, leaks of lead and TCE -- a known cancer causing chemical -- and violations that could endanger workers and the environment.

WCCO's Jennifer Mayerle asked Water Gremlin Vice President of International Manufacturing Carl DuBois what the company is doing to immediately rectify what's going on inside the plant.

"We have made proposals to the state on what we will do to be sure that they address their concern," DuBois said.

The state gave Water Gremlin 24 hours to make some changes regarding hazardous waste. The plant has three days and up to a month to make other corrections.

On the lead issue, Water Gremlin will be back in court on Dec. 4.

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