Water Gremlin manufacturing plant reopens Tuesday morning after temporary shutdown

Water Gremlin workers went back to work at the manufacturing plant in White Bear Township, Minnesota Tuesday morning after a weeklong shutdown over lead safety concerns. 

State health and labor officials issued a temporary shutdown order last week after tests found at least a dozen children of Water Gremlin workers had high levels of lead in their blood.

A Ramsey County judge ruled the plant could reopen Tuesday as long as the company met certain conditions, including implementing new guidelines for workplace safety. 

On Monday, approximately 300 workers underwent training on a new “clean exit plan” and other upgraded safety procedures to make sure employees do not bring any lead home on their body or clothes.

"We’ll continue to work with the state to address their concerns," said Water Gremlin Vice President Carl Dubois. "We care about the public’s wellbeing as well as their families."

Dubois promised better days ahead for the lead products manufacturer after a double dose of troubling developments on Wednesday.

"This court does find the migration of lead from Water Gremlin to employees’ cars and home is a public health nuisance," said Ramsey County Judge Leonardo Castro.

Judge Castro made it official Wednesday, ruling the company is to blame for the lead contamination that found its way from the White Bear Township factory and into the blood of the children of Water Gremlin employees.

And, in a separate matter outside of the courtroom, the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency found the company, that manufactures battery terminals and fishing gear, violated state hazardous waste regulations. That included leaks of lead and the cancer-causing chemical TCE as well as used oil that had the opportunity to seep into the soil and surrounding environment.

As for the lead contamination issue, the state and Water Gremlin with Judge Castro acting as something of a referee continued hammering out a plan to make sure workers are completely clean when they head home.

The company confirmed it resumed manufacturing early Wednesday morning after a week-plus shutdown. with an immediate focus on getting as much lead filings and remnants out of their employees' cars, to stop it from reaching their homes and families.

"Water Gremlin has offered new floor mats to all employees because it removed existing floor mats," said Water Gremlin Attorney Thaddeus Lightfoot. "That should take care of the problem."

Statement from Carl Dubois (VP International Manufacturing Water Gremlin):

Water Gremlin has operated under a hazardous waste permit since 1990. Ramsey County staff has had the delegated authority to inspect our facility and records, and has done so routinely. The latest inspection occurred in September 2019. County staff has repeatedly found Water Gremlin to be in compliance with all hazardous waste regulations. It appears the MPCA is now interpreting hazardous waste requirements differently than Ramsey County. It also appears that a number of the MPCA’s allegations are factually incorrect. Water Gremlin is assessing the MPCA’s interpretations, as a number would result in unintended consequences, such as lead oxide being disposed of rather than recycled as per standard industry practices. Water Gremlin intends to continue working cooperatively with the MPCA.