MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Retail giant Walmart will stop selling products made by a manufacturing plant with a history of pollution problems.
This is latest fallout for Water Gremlin in White Bear Township. The company has been under scrutiny since the beginning of the year for failing to accurately report the release of toxic chemicals for more than 15 years. More recently, a WCCO investigation revealed employees unknowingly tracked home lead, poisoning kids.
Water Gremlin products have been on shelves at Walmart for years. Once current inventory items like lead fishing sinkers and split shots are sold, the retailer says it will discontinue selling Water Gremlin items.
Carl Dubois, vice president of international marketing for the Japanese-owned company operating in White Bear Township, gave WCCO this statement:
Walmart recently elected to suspend its orders from Water Gremlin. While we are disappointed about this development, we are hopeful that we can earn back Walmart’s business as the positive impacts of our multiple workplace hygiene protocol changes implemented throughout 2019 are realized.
The manufacturing plant that makes fishing sinkers and battery terminal posts was court ordered to make changes. The Minnesota Department of Labor and Industry temporarily shut down the plant in October days after a WCCO investigation revealed some employees’ kids were poisoned by inadvertent take-home lead.
Operations restarted a week later with major oversight from the courts, DLI and the Minnesota Department of Health. The court mandated the company re-train employees on hygiene practices, clean their cars and clean work areas to eliminate the transfer of lead.
Documents filed in court Tuesday show 40 to 50 cars require a second cleaning. The third party monitor reports improvements have been made on employee hygiene spot checks, resulting in 97% compliance.
READ MORE: A Look Inside Water Gremlin
As ordered, the plant is looking at temporary changing and locker rooms and is consulting with an architect to make permanent changes.
Further investigation by state health officials and lead testing has revealed the number of kids impacted by lead poisoning linked to Water Gremlin doubled from 12 to 24.
A letter to Water Gremlin employees about Walmart said the move will not result in employee layoffs, but it did say it may reassign positions to adapt to the loss of the customer.
Water Gremlin will be back in court at 10 a.m. Wednesday on the lead issue.