MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — State Senator Roger Chamberlain is urging Gov. Tim Walz, the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension and Ramsey County’s sheriff and attorney to investigate Water Gremlin, the White Bear Township company that recently incurred one of the largest fines in Minnesota history.
Chamberlain’s office released statements Wednesday and Thursday calling on officials to see if the company’s emissions of the carcinogen TCE for more than 15 years warrant criminal charges.
“The citizens who lived near Water Gremlin while it was releasing TCE for nearly two decades deserve answers and accountability. There are a number of authorities in Minnesota with the power to investigate what went wrong, and they owe it to White Bear residents to figure out what happened,” Chamberlain said. “If there was any willful or negligent wrongdoing, we must hold people accountable and make sure it doesn’t happen again. We won’t be stonewalled.”
Chamberlain also reached out to Legislative Auditor Jim Nobles to probe the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency’s oversight of Water Gremlin, specifically the permits that have been granted over the years. He wants to determine if the agency also has any criminal culpability.
“Clearly something’s broken down in the process of monitoring environmental laws and pollution control laws,” Chamberlain said. “Even if some of this stuff is legitimate, it has the impression, perception of wrong doing. I have just asked for somebody that has authority and jurisdiction to look at the process and look at the facts of the case, determine if there’s criminal action, criminal activity. If something was willfully done or negligently done, so we can hold people accountable and fix the process so it doesn’t happen again.”
On-going investigative reporting from WCCO’s Jennifer Mayerle led to the discovery that Water Gremlin recently moved some operations to a Hudson, Wisconsin business to circumvent the MPCA’s order to stop performing a coating process that involves TCE.
After the report aired, the CEO of Hudson’s Hi-Tec Finishing announced they will cancel their contract with Water Gremlin, citing they were unaware that TCE would be involved in the process.
Water Gremlin is one of the country’s biggest producers of battery terminals. The company also makes fishing sinkers. President Junya Inoue told WCCO Wednesday, “We have just learned of Senator Chamberlain’s letters and are reviewing them.”
Officials from the MPCA released this statement to WCCO early Wednesday evening:
Since her first day on the job, Commissioner [Laura] Bishop has asked staff how was Water Gremlin able to violate the public’s trust and what additional steps can the MPCA take to ensure this doesn’t happen again. The MPCA will continue to use all available means to hold Water Gremlin accountable.