Our community group was able to provide a statement to be read during the introduction of legislation by Representative Wazlawik. Below is the full statement.
2/24/2020: This is being read on behalf of the Neighborhood Concerned Citizens Group – a White Bear area group formed shortly after we learned about the wrong-doing by Water Gremlin.
The anniversary of the March 1, 2019 Stipulation Agreement is almost here. We learned then that our families and neighbors had been exposed to extreme levels of TCE pollution. How extreme? In 2018, Water Gremlin self-reported emitting 120 tons of TCE into the air, against a 10 ton/year permit. They had been polluting excessively for 15+ years prior.
Our community has been taking action, asking for change and demanding accountability. We have learned many things along the way that astound us. Here are three.
First. White Bear area was not the first community impacted by TCE. This issue has been around for decades. TCE soil and water pollution has impacted communities like Bayport, Fridley, St. Louis Park, SE Como/Minneapolis, Edina, New Brighton, Arden Hills and more. These communities are dealing with the expense of managing TCE in soil and water. Citizens are dealing with health issues caused by TCE pollution.
It is possible for companies to move away from TCE. Since Water Gremlin became a media story, MnTap has received a record number of calls from companies asking for help to find other chemicals or processes. Additionally, many Minnesota manufactures have previously moved away from TCE because of how difficult it is to manage, even for those who know how.
Second. Few inspections are done in person – they are more often done via paper. Self-reporting is relied upon and the case of serial offenders – like Water Gremlin – it puts the community, workers and environment at risk when inspectors do not actually have eyes on the facility and do not communicate possible concerns with other agencies.
Third and final, for now. Impacted citizens are not consulted as a stakeholder. They are not warned when information first comes to light and they are not consulted as agreements with the offender are being made. By the way, the White Bear area community did not want 1500 trees planted, including trees on the Water Gremlin grounds. We like trees just fine, but not in place of hard fines for offenders.
The Water Gremlin experience has exposed these issues, and many others. I’m sorry to say – these issues also exist in your communities.
Take advantage of the fact that…through “Water Gremlin”…. we have learned where the system breaks down. We are in support of this common-sense legislation and, your communities would be to, if they had the unfortunate opportunity to learn all of this first-hand.