MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Minnesota officially became the first state in the country to ban the toxic chemical TCE, following a series of WCCO investigations.

Gov. Tim Walz signed the ban into law on Saturday. As WCCO’s Jennifer Mayerle reports, it took grit and determination to make history.

The TCE pollution Water Gremlin released into the air for more than 15 years prompted the White Bear Township community to act. While the manufacturing plant was ordered to stop using TCE in early 2019 and paid the state $7 million in fines and corrective actions, the neighborhood impacted by elevated levels of the toxic chemical demanded more. Their effort resulted in a ban on the chemical known to cause cancer and birth defects.

“It’s very exciting. Banning TCE is all about protecting human health,” Sheri Hastings of the Neighborhood Concerned Citizens Group said.

Last May WCCO gathered a group of neighbors, all impacted by cancer, worried about their health and their loved ones.

Now grateful other communities will be protected.

“I’m proud of all the work that everybody has done,” Page Stevens said.

“This hasn’t solved my wife’s cancer problem, but it’s gone a long way,” Denny Stevens said.

As a result of the unwanted TCE exposure, the Neighborhood Concerned Citizens Group formed. Over the last year, with persistence, tenacity and a demand for accountability, the core four got the bill to ban TCE to the finish line.

“I’ve seen an incredible amount of passion and hard work this past year,” Kelly Tapkan of NCCG said.

Their collective voices were heard. The bill ultimately named after their group.

“It’s our right, it’s our responsibility to drive change,” Leigh Thiel of NCCG said.

White Bear Township is not the only community impacted by TCE. WCCO highlighted cities like Fridley, St. Louis Park and Minneapolis, who have dealt with exposure for decades.

Concern over TCE in the state got the attention of Erin Brockovich, the environmental advocate with a Hollywood movie that bears her name.

She visited Fridley in 2012 and today applauds the community effort.

“They punched through it, stayed with it. They were true to the cause, their neighbor and the environment and honestly I’m really proud of them,” Brockovich said.

Brockovich and the environmental scientist she works with, Bob Bowcock, believe the state ban on TCE sets a precedent.

“We need leadership like Minnesota,” Bowcock said.

“I think you can become that model, if you will, for other states to hear, listen, study and potentially do the same,” Brockovich said.

The Senate passed the TCE ban near unanimously, then the House voted, and the governor signed the bill into law, coming together in a bipartisan way to protect Minnesotans.

“It’s a tribute to the fact that ordinary citizens have a voice, can make that voice heard and can stand together with those who have power and authority to enact meaningful change,” Sherry Smith of NCCG said.

Companies will be given help to find alternatives to using the chemical, prohibiting the use by June of 2022. Click here to learn more about TCE.

RELATED: Click here for all stories related to WCCO’s investigations into Water Gremlin.

Gov. Tim Walz signs bills
(credit: Office of Gov. Tim Walz)

Jennifer Mayerle

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