January 28, 2021
Dear Commissioner Bishop,
Today (1/28/2021) marks the two-year anniversary of the first MPCA-hosted community meeting regarding Water Gremlin. During that first meeting, our community began to understand the extreme and profound pollution we were exposed to over a period of more than 17+ years. Shortly after this meeting, the Neighborhood Concerned Citizen’s group formed.
We are writing today to request that the major permit for Water Gremlin be finalized no later than May 15, 2021.
For 2 years, we have been told the public comment period for the new major permit is months away.
- First we were told it would open for public comment during the summer of 2019.
- Then fall of 2019.
- Then December 2019…January 2020 at the latest.
- Then October of 2020.
- Then January of 2021.
- Now we are told it will be late March/early April of 2021, if all goes well.
We have no reason to believe this will happen, regardless of the best intentions.
Following are four of the many reasons this permit should be finalized soon.
- Ensuring proper regulatory documentation. The stipulation agreement (that has since been referenced by many as a rush-to-judgement) was never intended to regulate Water Gremlin for 2+ years. There needs to be relevant, safe guidelines that manage how Water Gremlin operates and ensures Water Gremlin is held accountable for what they’re doing. While the new UV process sounds promising, we are watchful for the chemicals that will be introduced, the impact of those if mishandled and the introduction of particulate matter.
- A need to adhere to the new Risk Assessment Advice (RAA) for t-DCE. The MDH released new Risk Assessment Advice (RAA) for t-DCE in April of 2020—9 months ago. The new RAA from MDH dramatically reduced the guideline from 70mg per cubic meter down to 20mg per cubic meter. A reduction of three and a half times from the original RAA.
When new guidelines were issued, MPCA verbally requested that Water Gremlin reduce their use of t-DCE in accordance with the new RAA. Water Gremlin has yet to agree to the new RAA for t-DCE. And, while YTD use of t-DCE may look good at the moment, it’s important to recognize these numbers reflect months of shut down due to administrative orders and reduced operations due to COVID. The numbers are trending up; indicating production is ramping up. https://www.pca.state.mn.us/air/water-gremlin-air-monitoring
- Stopping what seems to be business strategy of delays that avoid regulation. Water Gremlin has a history of delay tactics, diversionary / non-compliant actions and failure to comply with regulatory actions/requests. These actions have the result of delaying the final permit as each one of these actions requires investigation and changes.
Examples of these actions are outlined in the March 2019 Stipulation Agreement and in other regulatory actions/requests including two Administrative Orders. For the sake of brevity, we won’t list them all, you are well familiar with the documented examples.
Additionally, the community sees the request for the minor permit amendment this past fall as another example of what appears to be delay strategy. Work on the major permit was put on hold while the focus shifted to the minor permit amendment. To the community – it feels as though Water Gremlin is trying to wait us out – and then move forward with business as usual.
- Finite agency resources with competing priorities. The agency continues to dedicate significant resources to the management of Water Gremlin. Once the permit is finalized, the agency will be able to better deploy resources to other areas of need.
Finally, as you’re reading this, be thinking about this in terms of Environmental Justice and how communities ultimately get their interests heard and acted on. This is a case-study with two key take-aways. The first is how a community can have their voice heard and acted on. (Thank you for that.)
The second is how difficult it is for the community voice to be heard. The resources (including time, connections and experience) this community has leveraged into driving change and ensuring our voice is heard is difficult for most – particularly in the less affluent areas and/or with individuals that have very structured, hourly work schedules.
Delays such as what we are outlining in the Water Gremlin case cause extreme barriers and often result in the community simply giving up before actions are finalized. This diminishes community action to a brief headline – versus meaningful involvement and long-term, necessary change.
Thank you for listening and hearing us. We look forward to the permit being finalized and Water Gremlin and the White Bear area community no longer being a core focus of the MPCA.
The Neighborhood Concerned Citizens Group