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Legislative News and Views - Rep. Jamie Becker-Finn (DFL)

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Water Gremlin Update - August 15, 2019

Thursday, August 15, 2019

Dear neighbors,

Today, the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) announced that TCE and other toxic chemicals were found at the site of the Water Gremlin manufacturing plant in White Bear Township. TCE was found in groundwater and vapors beneath the plant. DCE – the chemical that Water Gremlin began using a few months ago as a replacement for TCE – was also detected in vapors underneath the building, and lead was discovered in soil and surface water nearby.

This level of pollution is completely unacceptable, particularly considering Water Gremlin’s history and residential location. The company must be held accountable for continuing to emit dangerous chemicals and betraying our communities’ trust. I’m committed to working with other local officials and state agencies to protect residents. We must ensure that Water Gremlin stops releasing these toxic chemicals into our community and properly cleans up the areas that are already polluted.

This morning, I urged Water Gremlin to comply with the MPCA’s request to shut down until it’s proven that further exposure can be prevented. I strongly encouraged the MPCA to take action immediately if Water Gremlin refuses to shut down voluntarily and urged the agency to test nearby water and soil. Residents deserve to know what toxic chemicals they may be exposed to in their homes and yards. You can read the public statement I issued with Rep. Ami Wazlawik (White Bear Lake) and Rep. Peter Fischer (Maplewood) here.

The more we learn about the pollution caused by Water Gremlin, the more I believe we need to ban the use of TCE in Minnesota. Companies shouldn’t be permitted to endanger workers and residents with dangerous chemicals that can increase risks for cancer and other serious health issues. I’ll keep fighting to get TCE and other toxic chemicals out of our communities.

This situation also indicates that we need a stronger regulatory process to protect our environment and the health and well-being of Minnesotans. Currently, the MPCA relies on companies to self-report potential pollution issues. While most businesses aren’t polluting our environment and promptly inform the MPCA about any concerns, it’s clear that there are bad actors who are taking advantage of the trust that’s been placed in them. I’d like to explore expanding the MPCA’s authority because I believe it would help identify threats more quickly. We need to make sure that companies are being responsible and that they’re held accountable for the consequences of their actions.

The first words in the Minnesota State Constitution are the following: “Government is instituted for the security, benefit and protection of the people.” As such, it is the duty of our state agencies and elected officials to put the health of Minnesotans above the profits and interests of regulated businesses. Please know that I take this Constitutional duty seriously and will make sure our state agencies do the same.

More information regarding Water Gremlin and the pollution recorded there is available at https://pca.state.mn.us/air/water-gremlin. Several media outlets are tracking this situation. The latest coverage is available here and here.  

If you have any questions or concerns that you’d like to address with MPCA staff, please call 651-757-2998 or email water.gremlin.mpca@state.mn.us. If you have health-related questions, you can contact the Minnesota Department of Health at 651-201-4897 or health.hazard@state.mn.us.

I’m closely monitoring this situation, and I’ll continue to provide updates as I receive more information. Please let me know if you have additional questions. 

Sincerely,

Jamie