MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — The manufacturing plant that makes lead fishing sinkers and battery terminal posts continues to make waves.

Water Gremlin was temporarily shut down in October after WCCO exposed some kids of workers were poisoned by lead transferred from the facility home. The courts got involved and the plant was ordered to clean the facility, workers cars and workers homes. Now the company is pushing back.

“It not only doesn’t have the authority to order Water Gremlin to pay, it doesn’t have the authority to order Water Gremlin to do it either, and that is the point,” Water Gremlin’s attorney Thaddeus Lightfoot said.

The attorney for the Department of Health and for Industry and Labor vehemently disagrees.

“It remains the positions of the commissioners that Water Gremlin should be paying for this clean-up because it caused the problem. It’s lead migrated into the homes of the community and it’s causing the problems and needs to be addressed,” Pete Surdo said.

If Water Gremlin has a valid argument will be decided by another court. While that’s being figured out, the state can move forward with alerting full and part-time workers that they can have their home tested for lead.

“The state is going to commit to doing everything it can to make sure the people in the community who might be exposed to Water Gremlin contamination are taken care of, even if Water Gremlin doesn’t want to pay for it. So this notice can go out and we can get the ball rolling, that’s the most important thing to do,” Surdo said.

Members of a concerned citizen’s group remain perplexed by what they call the company’s inaction.

“There is accountability. There are things Water Gremlin has done that are wrong and making sure families are safe should be an easy thing to say yes to,” Leigh Thiel said.

Republican Senator Roger Chamberlain says he’s concerned taxpayers will be on the hook if Water Gremlin doesn’t take responsibility.

“In the end, it’s WG who failed. And people in Warroad and Faribault should not have to pick up the tab,” Chamberlain said.

Chamberlain said as a result of this, he’ll look at legislation this next session to make sure there’s no question if a company, like Water Gremlin, should be financially responsible for all clean-up.

Jennifer Mayerle

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