MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — A Twin Cities community wants answers after a company released a cancer-causing chemical into the air for years.
On Tuesday, WCCO’s Jennifer Mayerle introduced you to neighbors from White Bear Township whose lives have been changed by cancer. Now, she talks with the attorney who’s taken on more than 100 clients with health concerns.
These strangers became allies after learning each of them has been touched by cancer.
“I had surgery so I had the complete radical hysterectomy,” Jodi Laliberte said.
“I told the doctors to hit me with whatever they had,” Steve Laliberte said.
“I was praying that I was going to keep my hair for today’s interview because it’s happening,” Page Stevens said.
They all live or lived in what the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency calls an area of concern surrounding Water Gremlin. For more than 15 years, the company emitted significant and illegal amounts of the cancer-causing chemical TCE. They’ve agreed to pay a $7 million fine and take corrective action as part of a settlement with the state.
Now attorney Dean Salita has taken on the community’s cases and even set up an office near their neighborhood. Much of his practice focuses on occupational exposure and cancer law.
“They’ve all been significant diseases. It has not been little things that have come up from this exposure. It’s been cancer, it’s been birth defects, it’s rheumatological issues, it’s been neurological issues. TCE has a long breadth of diseases and problems it causes,” Salita said.
More than a hundred have signed on with Salita.
“Each case has its own value and its own story,” Salita said.
He’s pushing for answers from Water Gremlin.
“I have a company that knows what they did and they’re sitting there. People are sick and they need help, they need answers, they need healthcare and they need to know what’s going on. That’s why I’m taking this on,” Salita said.
The Minnesota Health Department looked at ten years of cancer cases in the communities surrounding Water Gremlin. The study found the area is “virtually identical to cancer rates” across the Twin Cities.
In a statement, Water Gremlin said, “We are sorry that we have created health concerns in the community. We hope the health department’s recent findings, which indicate that there has been no increase in cancer or birth defect rates in our area, brings some peace of mind to our neighbors and fellow White Bear area residents. While encouraged by these findings, we urge any neighbors with health concerns to contact the Minnesota Department of Health.”