Dear Water Gremlin,
We are happy to see you join the conversation about your activities over the past 17+ years. It is through both conversation and meaningful change that the community can start to heal.
There are statements made that the community questions. In particular, the statement below suggests Water Gremlin’s actions since July 30, 2018 have been based on doing the right thing, with a new safety manager in place. However, in significant instances since the July 30, 2018 reporting, actions Water Gremlin took seem to directly contradict these words from Water Gremlin.
“In June 2018, a new environmental health and safety manager was hired. So now we have data coming in front of new eyes,” he said. “We couldn’t make that data make sense. As soon as we said, ‘this doesn’t look right, it doesn’t look good,’ we engaged a third party to help us investigate and create a voluntary self-report. That is what we turned in July 30, 2018.9/12/19, as published in the White Bear Press.
“We did the right thing when the information came to light to different people. Self-reporting works. Rarely does a company nefariously try to hide their data. That was not the case here.”
After reporting issues to the MPCA in July, 2018, Water Gremlin agreed with the MPCA to reduce Hazardous Air Pollutants (HAP) and Volatile Organic Compound (VOC) emissions. Instead, Water Gremlin HAP and VOC emissions increased dramatically in the second half of 2018; and this resulted in a Duty of Candor violation.
These actions leading to the Duty of Candor violation by the MPCA are outlined below from the March 1, 2019 Stipulation Agreement. Bold is added for increased readability.
“On September 20, 2018, the Regulated Party stated that it had reduced coating operations since shutting down CE003 on July 22, 2018. However, emissions data shows an increase in HAP and VOC emissions since that time period, especially increasing after the MPCA met with the Regulated Party on September 20, 2018, as outlined in the table below.”
In 2018, due in large part to actions after the July 22 report to the MPCA, the emissions were estimated to be 12 times over the permitted level of 10 tons per year, and were at the highest level since 2002. (See chart below. The red line indicates the permitted emissions of 10 tons per year. Data is from page 10 of the March 1, 2019 Stipulation Agreement.)
Water Gremlin – our questions regarding this are: “Why did Water Gremlin emit even more TCE in the second half of 2018, after engaging with the MPCA in July?”
Is it because of what you said in the article: “Battery plants shut down when we can’t make shipments. They are feeling the ripples very quickly.”?
The second contradiction is more recent and documented in the August 2019 Administrative Order requiring Water Gremlin to shut down VOC operations. In short, Water Gremlin waited 40 days to report results from their remediation investigation. These results were required to be reported within 2 business days. During this time, they continue operations.
14. Any deviation from a permitted activity that has the potential to endanger human health or the environment is required to be reported to the MPCA within two working days and identify what corrective actions have been taken to terminate the deviation. Minn. R. 7019.100, Subp. 1.August 22, 2019 Administrative Order (Bold added for readability of key facts.)
15. Water Gremlin failed to report the active tDCE release within two days, did not stop the tDCE release, and instead continued to operate its coating equipment with the tDCE solvent.
16. Water Gremlin submitted the data to the MPCA 40 days after receipt, when it provided its RI Report to the MPCA on July 30, 2019.
Other facts from the Administrative Order provide context to the seriousness of the delay in action.
29.The amount of tDCE discovered is of significant concern because Water Gremlin has only been using this new solvent since March 2019.
31.Water Gremlin has no control over the active release of tDCE.
Water Gremlin – our questions regarding this are: “Why did Water Gremlin continue to operate and hold on to data without reporting it to the MPCA within the required 2 day window?”
“Why should we believe that new staff and increased sr. management oversight since June of 2018 will make Water Gremlin a better corporate citizen?”
“Again, is it because of what you said in the article: “Battery plants shut down when we can’t make shipments. They are feeling the ripples very quickly.”?
Water Gremlin, You say you accept accountability and you’ve been committed to doing everything to make it right since this was reported to the MPCA in July of 2018. However, the recent actions of Water Gremlin, in part outlined above, appear to contradict your words.