MPCA sued for information on emissions from Water Gremlin

Crowd outside building holding signs
A group of residents from White Bear Township protests outside the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency on Aug. 15, 2019, in St. Paul, asking state officials to shut down Water Gremlin, a manufacturer that has violated its air pollution permit.
Elizabeth Dunbar | MPR News

An attorney announced Tuesday that he's suing the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency to get information on toxic emissions from Water Gremlin, a White Bear Township, Minn.,-based manufacturer of fishing sinkers and battery terminals.

In March, the company agreed to pay a $7 million fine imposed by the MPCA for emitting an excessive amount of trichloroethylene — or TCE — a substance which health officials say is a known carcinogen.

Dean Salita, a personal injury attorney based in Hopkins, Minn., said he filed a data request with the MPCA four months ago but hasn't received all the information he asked for.

"The documents the MPCA provided to Schmidt & Salita did not come close to representing all the requested and responsive public records," according to the lawsuit complaint.

Salita said his firm sought help from former Minnesota Attorney General Lori Swanson, who sent a follow-up letter to the MPCA. The request covered 11 categories of public documents to be released by mid-June. But Salita said he hasn’t received that information.

More than 100 people who worked at the plant or live nearby have reported cancers and other health problems they suspect are due to chemicals released by the company, he said.

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"I represent public citizens who've asked for this documentation and I'm not getting it. If it happens to be part of my lawsuit, down the road, I'll find out," he said. "I don't know yet. I don't know what they have."

Sarah Kilgriff, land and air compliance manager with the state agency, said she couldn't comment on the lawsuit because she hadn't seen it.

Last week the MPCA asked Water Gremlin to shut down some of its operations because of new contamination of the soil beneath the plant.

Water Gremlin disputed the MPCA findings of additional pollutants. The company also told the MPCA that it would have new vapor mitigation equipment installed as required by the end of August.