St. Paul Ramsey County Public Health Department

Dana Janowiak, left, a public health nurse, and Kathy Hedin, an interim public health director, both with St. Paul Ramsey County Public Health Department, set up a computer at Vadnais Sports Center on Wednesday, Oct. 30, 2019. Ramsey County and the Minnesota Department of Health are hosting information sessions for Water Gremlin employees and their families, including testing for blood lead levels and employment services. Jean Pieri / St. Paul Pioneer Press

WHITE BEAR LAKE, Minn. — Water Gremlin LLC had been open one day when it was hit — again — with charges of polluting the environment.

The Wednesday, Nov. 6, order from the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency said the company let contaminated engine oil leak out of the factory. The PCA also charged the company with new releases of toxic lead and airborne fumes from a solvent.

The order came after officials shut down water Gremlin on Oct. 28, saying the company allowed employees to track lead dust into their homes.

The factory reopened Tuesday morning. The new administrative order does not require the company to shut down, according to PCA spokesman Darin Broton.

The PCA ordered Water Gremlin on Wednesday to take 20 specific actions related to the new pollution charges. By mid-day Wednesday, said Broton, the company had completed seven of those.

The White Bear Township company manufactures battery terminals and fishing sinkers, and uses the solvent to clean the lead components.

In March, officials said Water Gremlin had illegally released tons of the solvent TCE, or trichloroethylene, over a 17-year period. Water Gremlin paid $7 million in penalties.

The company and state agencies squabbled for months over how to limit the pollution.

In August, the PCA shut down the company’s lead-coating operations, which use the solvent.

Then the state Health Department shut down the plant after discovering high levels of lead in 12 children of Water Gremlin employees. Apparently, the employees tracked the lead out of the plant on their shoes and clothing, and into their homes.

The Wednesday order resulted from violations uncovered in three inspections of the plant.

PCA inspectors found lead and TCE inside the plant, on the floors and the equipment. The pollutants also leaked through cracks in the floor of the plant, into the soil beneath the factory.

The new order alleges that the company also released contaminated oil. The oil leaked from Water Gremlin’s filtration equipment, and was found on the pavement outside the building.

The three separate actions against the company require it to perform a list of remedial actions limiting releases of lead, solvent and oil.

“Water Gremlin is working to meet the corrective actions, but they still have a ways to go,” said Broton. The company did not immediately respond to an email request for comment Wednesday.

The PCA’s Broton said the newly discovered forms of pollution do not endanger the air or the drinking water supplies of the area.

The new order specifies deadlines for taking certain actions. “There are things they have to do in the next 24 hours, in seven days, and in months from now,” said Broton.

And if they don’t?

“The PCA has lots of tools it can use to get Water Gremlin into compliance,” said Broton. Those include additional fines and another shutdown order.

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