By Jennifer Mayerle

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — A homeowner in White Bear Township is suing a manufacturing plant, alleging property damage.

Water Gremlin has been at the center of controversy since early 2019, when it entered into a settlement with the state of Minnesota after more than a decade of pollution came to light. Some living near the plant say the company should compensate the community.

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The manufacturing plant is surrounded by homes, one of which belongs to Rob Sharot.

“It’s a place of safety, it’s shelter,” Sharot said.

But he says the plant’s actions has threatened his home value. It released elevated and unsafe levels of a chemical known to cause cancer and birth defects, called TCE, into the air for more than 15 years.

The state settled with the company in early 2019 for $7 million in fines and corrective action. Months later, WCCO exposed workers were unknowingly taking home lead, poisoning some kids.

“That’s the primary concern right now, what is that going to do to our property value, my neighbors, etc., that have been impacted,” Sharot said.

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Law firm Liddle and Dubin out of Detroit, Michigan has taken on the class action case. Laura Sheets is one of the attorneys involved.

“It is one of the most egregious cases of pollution that I have ever seen,” Sheets said. “This is impacting these people’s ability to use and enjoy their homes. It’s impacting their ability to sell their house.”

The case alleges 4,000 homes in the area of concern, outlined by state health and pollution officials have suffered property damage as a result of the excessive TCE release. The concern is two-fold: lost home value and that buyers won’t look in the area because of the attention the issue has gotten. Sellers must disclose the pollution to prospective purchasers.

“Basically, they need to be held accountable for their actions. That’s really what this comes down to,” Sharot said.

In a statement, the plant told WCCO, “Water Gremlin believes this case is without merit, and we will be presenting a rigorous defense of this matter. Out of respect for the legal process, we will not comment on details of the case at this time. In April 2019, the Minnesota Department of Health reported no evidence of increased illnesses associated with TCE in the area surrounding Water Gremlin.”

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Earlier this year, Minnesota made history, becoming the first state to ban TCE. The case has been assigned to the same judge currently handling a state case involving lead migration and Water Gremlin.

Jennifer Mayerle