MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – The state of Minnesota has reached a settlement with a manufacturing plant that released a cancer-causing chemical in the air for more than a decade.
Water Gremlin in White Bear Township will pay more than $7 million in fines and corrective action.
The company makes fishing sinkers and battery terminal posts. We now know the company released elevated levels of the chemical used to clean those posts into the air since at least 2002. TCE is known to cause birth defects and cancer.
“The company clearly failed these communities,” Minnesota Pollution Control Commissioner Laura Bishop said.
The company will pay the state $4.5 million in fines, work on community environmental projects and Water Gremlin must do soil and groundwater testing. It can no longer use the chemical TCE and there’s currently four air monitors set up around the facility.
“They’re required to submit, daily, weekly, monthly, yearly records. We will be watching them every day, monitoring air quality,” said Sarah Kilgriff, enforcement manager.
Homes and lakes surround the manufacturing plant. The area of concern extends up to a mile and a half from the facility. The Minnesota Department of Health says people reported health concerns at a recent community meeting.
“What we’re concerned about is that the fact that the community was exposed for this period of time could have increased their risk of these health outcomes that have been associated with TCE,” Jim Kelly said.
Neighbors who showed up to learn about the settlement said they’re comfortable with it but say the state shouldn’t rely on companies to self-report problems.
“I wish the pollution control agency had done a better job right away, yes. I’m very leery about self-reporting. I just don’t see that as good enough,” Jan Hubinger said.
Others we spoke with think the settlement was rushed and wish the community had a say in it.
“If I grow two heads or something I want to know that somebody’s covering me,” Wes Carlson said.
Water Gremlin sent a letter to neighbors apologizing and explaining the steps they’ve taken. People should start receiving letters on Saturday. The community is not part of the state settlement, which means individuals would have to file their own civil suit to receive any compensation.