By Jennifer Mayerle

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – A manufacturing plant with a history of pollution violations has been told it must shut down part of its operation. The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency cites pollution violations and public health concerns.

Water Gremlin in White Bear Township said it stopped its coating process that uses the harmful chemical DCE when it received the order.

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WCCO’s Jennifer Mayerle has followed this story since the beginning of the year and has been breaking developments along the way.

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People that live near Water Gremlin were stunned but not surprised to learn Water Gremlin has new pollution violations.

“The arrogance, the audacity of the company is beyond comprehension,” Paige Stevens said.

Experts found the toxic chemicals TCE, DCE and lead in the air, ground and water on Water Gremlin’s property. The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency issued an Administrative Order late Thursday to shut part of the facility down. It said the plant that manufactures fishing sinkers and battery terminals knew it was releasing the pollutant DCE below its facility, which is prohibited under its permit and the levels found were higher than what’s safe. The agency doesn’t know if the pollution caused by toxic chemicals has migrated off the property.

“How many mistakes is a company allowed to make before it’s no longer a mistake,” Leigh Thiel said.

Water Gremlin told WCCO it immediately ceased operations that use DCE upon receiving the administrative order and the company is working to address MPCA’s concerns.

Water Gremlin has been under scrutiny since the beginning of the year. It released significant levels of a chemical, TCE, which may cause cancer and birth defects into the air for more than 15 years. The company paid $7 million in fines and corrective action as part of a settlement with the state.

MPCA alleges Water Gremlin knew about the new chemicals in the ground for more than a month before alerting the agency. That’s a blatant violation of an agreement with the state.

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“It just proves they should not be allowed to exist,” Stevens said.

“When I think about what they did, I wonder why criminal charges haven’t been filed. I hope that criminal charges are coming,” Thiel said.

Water Gremlin says the health and well-being of the community continues to be their No. 1 priority.

The attorney representing more than a hundred neighbors, many with cancer, has a different take on the matter.

“It’s troubling Water Gremlin has continued to put the health of the community at risk in recent weeks after nearly two decades of spewing toxic chemicals into the air in violation of its state environmental permits,” Dean Salita said.

The MPCA released a statement Friday morning:

“Under the administrative order, the company may not resume coating operations until it has taken corrective action to address the release of tDCE into the soil vapor beneath the Water Gremlin facility. These corrective actions must be approved by MPCA, completed, and determined to be effective before coating operations may resume.”

You can read the full statement here.

Carl Dubois, Vice President of International Manufacturing at Water Gremlin, released a statement Friday afternoon:

“We ceased coating operations last night immediately upon receiving the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency’s administrative order. Yesterday, prior to our planned voluntary shutdown at 6:30 this morning, we submitted a plan to capture the t-DCE vapor beneath our building and to prevent more t-DCE vapor from traveling through the floor into the air space below our building.

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“While we continue to work in earnest with the MPCA to address its concerns, it is important to note that environmental experts are confident that the t-DCE vapors are limited to the air space immediately beneath our building and do not pose a risk to our employees, neighbors or the environment.

“The health and well-being of our community continues to be our number one priority, and we are working hard to earn back their trust since discovering TCE emissions and reporting it to the MPCA in July of 2018.

“We encourage community members to visit for more information and to sign up for updates as we continue to work with the MPCA.”

Jennifer Mayerle