MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — An independent fact finder will look at how the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency handled a pollution investigation.

Jim Nobles is used to tackling tough topics. His role as Minnesota’s legislative auditor demands it.

“Our mission is to dig out the facts across many different issues and to lay them out in a public report that is accurate and objective,” Nobles said.

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Following months of WCCO reports featuring concerned families, and a request from a State Senator, Nobles agreed to examine how the MPCA handled Water Gremlin, a manufacturing plant that released a cancer-causing chemical in White Bear Township for more than 15 years.

“It’s caused a great deal of anxiety, even fear,” Nobles said. “And I think the state has had a role, and so what we need to determine is did the state fulfill its responsibilities.”

Legislative Auditor Jim Nobles (credit: CBS)

Water Gremlin paid $7 million in fines and corrective action in a state settlement. Nobles said he will likely begin his outside investigation later this month. He will look at documents, and he has the ability to access ones considered classified — and has the authority to call officials in to testify under oath.

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“To look at what the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency knew, who knew what, when and what actions did they take as a result of that, and also what should they have known,” Nobles said. “I think that’s our assignment because what has happened is a serious environmental issue.”

Nobles expects to have the results of the report by the end of the year. There could be consequences if he finds officials didn’t do their job.

The report could also lead to more resources to fight pollution or changes in how the MPCA operates.

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Jennifer Mayerle