By Jennifer Mayerle

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — A Twin Cities factory got the green light to re-start an operation that had been shut down over pollution problems for months. The state had ordered Water Gremlin to stop a manufacturing process last summer after inspectors found chemicals and lead in the air and water on the White Bear Township property.

Water Gremlin has been under state scrutiny since early last year. Problems with its coating process started a domino effect. The manufacturing plant emitted unsafe levels of a cancer-causing chemical into the air for more than 15 years. A $7 million state settlement required the company to use a replacement chemical. When the company couldn’t control those emissions, and inspectors discovered more pollution, the MPCA shut down Water Gremlin’s coating process in August. Now, the company can restart operations in phases.

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“This was a result of numerous unannounced inspections at the facility as well as Water Gremlin taking corrective actions,” MPCA Assistant Commissioner Craig McDonnell said.

The MPCA administrative order ensures Water Gremlin keeps paying a third-party to monitor emissions.

And it’s required to limit its yearly emissions. The state says there are other safeguards, too.

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“This time we will be monitoring weekly. There are strong off ramps for us to cease Water Gremlin’s operations in this new administrative order. If we see anything that’s out of character for that tDCE beneath the building, we will tell Water Gremlin to cease operations once again,” McDonnell said.

People who live nearby say they’ll watch what comes next.

“We trust that the regulatory agencies have done everything they can to mandate change that makes Water Gremlin production safer, but we’re still highly concerned and we’re scared,” neighbor Leigh Thiel said.

Carl Dubois with Water Gremlin provided WCCO with a statement saying it’s pleased to have reached this juncture with the MPCA and is “reviewing and clarifying requirements received today from the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency. Water Gremlin has and will cooperate and diligently work with the MPCA to address every concern raised. We are committed to being a good community member and providing a safe environment for everyone.”

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Coating could restart as early as next week. Water Gremlin still has other issues. There’s an MPCA administrative order dealing with hazardous waste. And the company is under court-order to make sure lead doesn’t migrate off its property.

Jennifer Mayerle