Water Gremlin

Informational meeting: July 28 (6 p.m.)

PDF icon Notice of a public informational meeting


TimelineIn January 2019, the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) and the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) investigated community exposures to an industrial solvent called trichloroethylene (TCE) used by Water Gremlin, a manufacturer in White Bear Township. MPCA’s investigation showed that the company failed to report accurate emission data for more than 15 years. Water Gremlin violated its permit and exposed the surrounding neighborhoods to TCE levels above MDH’s health benchmark of 2 micrograms per cubic meter of air.  

MPCA computer models suggested the area of concern for TCE emissions is roughly as shown in the map below. The orange line represents the estimated extent of concentrations in outdoor air that may have exceeded the long-term MDH health benchmark. The modeling incorporated 2018 annual TCE usage, as reported by Water Gremlin, and meteorological data collected at the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport.

More information regarding the health effects of TCE is available from the Minnesota Department of Health.

Map of area of concern

This map was updated in January 2020 using data from the airport in Crystal, Minn., which yields a slightly different shape than the previous map. The map shows the extent of annual average TCE concentrations above the health benchmark of 2 micrograms per cubic meter of air for the year 2018.

Updated map of White Bear Lake showing Water Gremlin facility at Otter Lake Rd and Whitaker St. The estimated area of concern extends approximately a mile in every direction from the facility.

Settlement agreement

On March 1, 2019, Water Gremlin and the MPCA agreed on a settlement for violations of the facility’s air quality permit. The settlement represents one of the largest civil penalties ever issued by the MPCA. The agreement allowed Water Gremlin to switch from TCE to an alternative product called FluoSolv WS, which uses trans-1,2-Dichloroethene (tDCE) as its main ingredient.

The MPCA implemented stringent requirements on Water Gremlin’s tDCE usage, including preventing the company from using excessive quantities during the first few months while the new equipment was being installed and becoming operational. During this period, Water Gremlin was required to reduce its tDCE usage when concentrations measured in outdoor air exceeded an action level set in the agreement.

Once the new equipment was installed, Water Gremlin needed to temporarily increase its usage of tDCE to demonstrate the efficacy of its pollution control equipment at peak capacity and to help MPCA develop a more stringent air permit. Water Gremlin is prohibited from exceeding a rolling 12-month volatile organic compounds (VOC) limit of 90 tons. If the company exceeds this limit, it must shut down operations until the rolling average drops below the limit.



Discontinue use of TCE on the site


Replace TCE with a less-toxic alternative (FluoSolv)


Install new pollution control equipment


Submit to third-party, 24-hour air monitoring tests once every three days (results reported to MPCA)


Submit daily reports on FluoSolv use


Submit monthly reports of VOC emissions


Apply for a new, more stringent air permit

Application submitted February 2019

Coordinate third-party efforts to reduce or eliminate TCE emissions at other facilities

In progress

Complete a community forestry project in White Bear Lake, White Bear Township and Gem Lake

In progress

Pay a civil penalty of $4.5 million



Speak with staff at MDH or MPCA about Water Gremlin