State investigates air emissions at White Bear Township manufacturer

Contact: MPCA — Ralph Pribble, 651-757-2657
               MDH — Doug Schultz, 651-201-4993

The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) and the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) are investigating possible community exposures to an industrial solvent used by a manufacturer in White Bear Township.

Water Gremlin Inc. at 4400 Otter Lake Road in White Bear Township, operates under an air quality permit from the MPCA to control air emissions from its production process. The company makes fishing sinkers and battery terminal posts.

The MPCA requested on Jan. 14 that Water Gremlin voluntarily shut down part of their process.  The request came after it was discovered that the company was emitting too much trichloroethylene (TCE) into the air.  The company complied with the request on the same day, and the MPCA is investigating the extent and magnitude of the emissions and working with MDH to understand the potential health impacts.

TCE is a solvent used to degrease metal parts during the manufacture of a variety of products. You can’t see or smell it in most cases. Breathing TCE, especially at high levels or over long periods of time, can cause negative health effects. More information about TCE can be found on MDH's TCE and Your Health webpage

The facility has pollution control equipment designed to limit TCE emissions, but the MPCA and MDH recently learned that the equipment was not functioning properly and may not have been for some time.  The agencies are gathering information on how long the emissions occurred and at what levels. 

A map of the area of concern is available on the MPCA's Water Gremlin webpage.

Meanwhile the facility has cooperated with the MPCA’s requests, the TCE line remains shut down, and the public is not being exposed at this time.  It will remain shut down as long as necessary to protect public health. 

The MPCA and MDH are working jointly to assess the extent of exposures that may have occurred, the health risks from such exposures, and if any specific advice is needed for area residents and workers at the facility.

State officials will hold a public informational meeting in the community so residents can learn more and talk to agency staff about this situation.  The meeting is on Thursday, Feb. 7, at Central Middle School, 4857 Bloom Ave. in White Bear Lake, from 6:30 to 9:00 p.m.