July 28, 2022 MCPA hosted a community meeting to outline details on the major air permit for Water Gremlin. NCCG was invited to address the community. Here’s what Sheri had to say.
“Myself and a handful of dedicated citizens formed NCCG in February of 2019,
shortly after we became aware of the pollution imparted by Water Gremlin into
We have worked tirelessly on an issue nobody ever wanted
to see happen in our area. Today, we remain concerned over this matter. The
exposure we’ve had to toxic and carcinogenic pollutants.
In other words, we cared in early 2019 when we first learned about this. And we
continue to care.
The three pillars of the NCCG organization are:
* Understand what happened in our community
* Protect the future for White Bear Lake area residents
* Require accountability from those responsible
As we review the details of the new air permit, we are looking for future
protection for citizens. We are looking for accountability from those responsible.
And we are looking for evidence of true culture change at Water Gremlin.
Evidence they’ll not continue seemingly bad business practices that showed complete
disregard for human health, for our environment and for the welfare of the
workers at their plant.
Pretty simple concepts—but those concepts can be difficult to move from
conceptual ideas into concrete requirements.
The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency and the Minnesota Department of
Health have worked side by side with us since we became aware of this fiasco
involving Water Gremlin.
Initially, we met with representatives from both agencies, along with local
legislators on a twice monthly frequency. Every other week at 7am for two years.
That was a true commitment from everyone involved. The frequency later
became once monthly—and we continue to this day to meet once monthly.
We held community meetings to keep citizens informed about what happened.
We initiated a web site. We worked very hard to learn about Volatile Organic
Compounds and the other chemicals that we’d been exposed to.
We are absolutely grateful to the MPCA for their steadfast support to our
community. And we’re grateful to the MN Department of Health for their
Many of you know that our group, along with support from local legislators, were
successful in getting TCE banned from use in the state of Minnesota. This was not
an easy undertaking. The legislation did not pass in 2019 – but we stuck with it
and it was passed with almost unanimous support in 2020. I’m proud to have
been involved in that effort and especially proud that our state was the first in the
US to ban this terribly toxic chemical.
Despite all that we have accomplished together, we know we cannot look away
from this situation. Not yet.
Unfortunately, we don’t believe Water Gremlin has undergone cultural change
that would give us the necessary confidence or assurance this type of situation
won’t happen again.
When I think about everything we now know –- and what
has occurred over the last 24 years and over the last 3.5 years, we remain
In 2018, Water Gremlin told MPCA they would be scaling back their operations.
This was important because their pollution control equipment was inoperative for
a significant portion of that year.
On an air permit that allowed them to emit 9.5 tons of TCE into the air annually,
they emitted 120 TONS in 2018 alone. Let me repeat. 9.5 tons permitted. 120
tons emitted. And the emissions were wholly or in part, self-reported. What that
means is it was probably way worse than what this company admitted. In fact,
over the time frame of 2002 through 2018, they would have been allowed to emit
170 tons of TCE into the air. Their actual emissions? 910 tons. Let me repeat.
170 tons permitted, 910 tons actually emitted.
This company has proved incompetent at handling volatile organic compounds
such as TCE. The replacement chemical they’re using today, which is t-DCE, is
chemically very similar to TCE and is described by experts as a ‘less desirable’
alternative to TCE.
They’d mishandled lead and poisoned children with take-home lead. They’ve mishandled hazardous
waste.These are the known violations. And we do not believe this Company has made the necessary business
culture changes that would signal true reform.
We MUST ensure that Water Gremlin complies with the confines of the new air
permit. We need to insist upon frequent on-site inspections at the Water Gremlin
plant. We need to ensure this kind of situation, the history with this Company
does not repeat itself in our community, or in the state of Minnesota. EVER.
We cannot and will not look away from this situation and we encourage you, as
citizens of our area to be as incensed as you should be about what has happened
here in the White Bear Lake area.