MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Minnesota’s Governor applauds a group of concerned community members for exercising their democratic right.

“I think they’re a role model, this is what we ask of citizens,” Governor Tim Walz said.

He met with members of the Neighborhood Concerned Citizens Group on Monday. The grassroots advocacy group formed after learning the manufacturing plant in their community, Water Gremlin, released a chemical known to cause cancer and birth defects into the air for more than 15 years. As WCCO’s Jennifer Mayerle reports, they are active and invested in making Minnesota safer.

RELATED: Community Group Asks Ind. Gov’t Watchdog To Look Into Water Gremlin, MPCA

At the state capitol, in a closed-door meeting, Governor Walz and Minnesota Pollution Control Agency Commissioner Laura Bishop met with a group of women. The core of the Neighborhood Concerned Citizens Group are moms and neighbors who decided they needed to take action.

“To stand up for those that don’t have a voice,” NCCG member Sherry Hastings said.

They asked to meet with the Governor to share why they’re concerned about Water Gremlin’s actions.

“We were given a true opportunity to really speak and be heard,” NCCG member Sherri Smith said.

The manufacturing plant in White Bear Township that makes fishing sinkers and battery terminal posts paid a $7 dollar settlement earlier this year for emitting the toxic chemical, TCE, and has continued to have pollution problems.

RELATED: Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz Weighs In On Water Gremlin Pollution Investigation

“We thought that we were safe. We thought people were doing, people were able to do what they needed to do to watch out for us, but they can’t,” NCCG member Leigh Thiel said.

Walz said he admires how the group has educated themselves about the issue and activated the community. He stands with them on phasing out TCE in Minnesota and wants them to trust in state leaders.

“Transparency is a big piece of this because the biggest threat here is if they don’t think they can trust the company, we want to make sure they can certainly trust the people that were elected to ensure this doesn’t happen,” Walz said.

MPCA Commissioner Bishop admits there’s work to be done. Companies like Water Gremlin are expected to self-report emissions.

“And that has failed in this case and we’ve seen that fail. This self-reporting as well as this trust our companies but verify isn’t always working. So we need to take a closer look at that,” Bishop said.

NCCG remains committed to bettering not just their community, but for the entire state.

“My takeaway from a regular person, in a regular community that hasn’t been involved in politics, is that we can make a difference,” NCCG member Kelly Tapkan said.

The Governor’s office is looking for people to apply to be part of a citizen’s committee that advises the MPCA. Click here to learn more.

Jennifer Mayerle

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