Minnesota company may have leaked carcinogen TCE into air for years

/ CBS News

Minneapolis— A Minnesota business may have been emitting a cancer-causing chemical into the air for a decade or more. Manufacturing company Water Gremlin is located White Bear Township, north of St. Paul, near several lakes and residential neighborhoods.

The Minnesota Department of Health and the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency are investigating after the company was found to be releasing high levels of trichloroethylene (TCE) into the air, CBS Minnesota station WCCO reports.

Breathing in high concentrations of the carcinogen has been linked to kidney cancer, liver cancer and lymphoma. It can also impact the immune and central nervous systems, and it can cause heart defects in babies, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.

John Bartholomew has lived near Water Gremlin for more than 30 years. About a month ago, he found out the air he has been breathing may have been contaminated with a cancer-causing chemical.

"We want answers. The whole neighborhood wants answers," Bartholomew said.

Founded in 1949, Water Gremlin makes fishing sinkers and battery terminal posts. The company has used the chemical TCE since the 1970s to clean and coat those posts, WCCO-TV reports. The business was supposed to have pollution control equipment in place to remove the chemical from the air before it left the building, but that equipment hasn't been working since at least 2009.

"Our concern is that this has had some health impacts on people in the community," said Jeff Smith of the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA).

The facility was checked several times a year throughout this time period, but investigators didn't notice the flaw and the company didn't report it.

"We expect that a facility as sophisticated as they are ought to know their pollution equipment is not working," Smith said.

Agency officials took questions from the community Thursday night and laid out the risk factors of this exposure.

"TCE is a significant hazardous air pollutant. It is something that at the federal level they are trying to ban right now," Smith said.

The MPCA was made aware than the company violated the air permit back in July, but the company was only asked to shut down the coating process in late January, the station reports.

With all of this concerning information coming to light, Bartholomew says his planned move from the neighborhood may have come too late.

"My wife is retiring. I am retiring, and we were planning on selling and downsizing this summer, so it will be interesting to see what the results are from this," he said.

Water Gremlin sent WCCO-TV the following statement from Vice President of International Manufacturing Carl Dubois:

Water Gremlin has been a proud member of the White Bear Township community for more than 60 years. We employ approximately 300 people from our region and manufacture fishing sinkers and battery terminals that are distributed across the globe.

We apologize for the concern and inconvenience this has caused. The safety of our employees and neighbors continues to be our number one priority. We are working with the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) to permanently resolve the issue and switch to an alternate solvent that is not a hazardous air pollutant. We will not restart our operations until we are in full compliance with MPCA requirements.

We are grateful for our partnership with the MPCA and the Minnesota Department of Health as we work to understand this situation and safely resume our operations.

Another community meeting is scheduled for March 7.

First published on February 22, 2019 / 5:02 PM

© 2019 CBS Interactive Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Organizers want breakdancing at the 2024 Paris Olympics

Will boomboxes be considered sports equipment at the Summer Games?

3M ago

Trump admin proposes cutting millions from Planned Parenthood

It’s the most concrete step that the administration has taken to limit abortion access since President Trump’s inauguration

52M ago

Virgin Galactic reaches edge of space again in push to launch paying passengers

The SpaceShipTwo rocketplane was carried aloft from the Mojave Air & Space Port north of Los Angeles

53M ago

Here's how to watch the 91st Academy Awards

All of Hollywood's elite will descend on LA's Dolby Theatre Sunday night for the biggest cinema awards event of the year

1H ago

Child dies a day after flu diagnosis

41 children have died from flu-related causes this flu season, including a fourth-grader who died just one day after being diagnosed

2H ago

Trump admin proposes cutting millions from Planned Parenthood

It’s the most concrete step that the administration has taken to limit abortion access since President Trump’s inauguration

52M ago

Trump meets with Chinese vice premier

The U.S. is running up against a March 1 deadline for trade talks

2H ago

Here's who has been charged in Robert Mueller's probe

Mueller's report to Attorney General William Barr is expected sometime after next week

2H ago

Student told she can't wear "MAGA" hat to high school

Student criticizes school district's dress code after being told she can't wear hat featuring well-known slogan

4H ago

Conservative activist allegedly assaulted on Berkeley campus

Video captured by nearby students appears to show one man punching conservative activist Hayden Williams

5H ago

Organizers want breakdancing at the 2024 Paris Olympics

Will boomboxes be considered sports equipment at the Summer Games?

3M ago

Here's who has been charged in Robert Mueller's probe

Mueller's report to Attorney General William Barr is expected sometime after next week

2H ago

Woman dies after eating at Michelin-starred restaurant

One woman died and 28 other diners have fallen ill after eating at a Michelin-starred restaurant in Valencia, Spain

3H ago

Father of ISIS bride sues to get U.S. to let her come back

Suit argues Hoda Muthana is an American citizen and should be allowed to return but U.S. says she's not

6H ago

Google Doodle honors Steve Irwin

The doodle shows Irwin in his element – with crocodiles, and his two children and wife

6H ago

Here's how to watch the 91st Academy Awards

All of Hollywood's elite will descend on LA's Dolby Theatre Sunday night for the biggest cinema awards event of the year

1H ago

R. Kelly charged with criminal sexual abuse in Illinois

The singer has faced allegations of sexual misconduct with underage girls for decades and has denied them

3H ago

"Space Jam 2" release date revealed

The premiere date may have been chosen to pay homage to both the original "Space Jam" star – and the new one

5H ago

Afrofuturism gains momentum as artists reclaim black history

Social, cultural and political philosophy dating back to the 1950s is resurging with popularity of films like "Black Panther" and works of author Tomi Adeyemi and artist Janelle Monáe

5H ago

Jussie Smollett's character cut from "Empire" episodes

"The events of the past few weeks have been incredibly emotional for all of us," executive producers said in a statement

6H ago

Virgin Galactic reaches edge of space again in push to launch paying passengers

The SpaceShipTwo rocketplane was carried aloft from the Mojave Air & Space Port north of Los Angeles

53M ago

Japanese space probe lands on far-off asteroid to get samples

Scientists say the samples could provide clues about the origin of the solar system and of life on Earth

13H ago

SpaceX launches rocket carrying privately funded Israeli moon lander

If successful, the $100M mission will put Israel in an exclusive club, joining the U.S., Soviet Union/Russia and China as only the fourth nation in space history to pull off a powered landing on the moon

19H ago

Advocates say Facebook tricked kids into in-game purchases

FTC urged to probe if the social-media company illegally enticed minors to spend money without parental consent

Feb 21

YouTube axes 400+ channels over child exploitation controversy

YouTube has come under fire for allowing disturbing content, leading major companies to pull their ads

Feb 21

Company may have leaked carcinogen into air for years

Breathing in high concentrations of the chemical TCE has been linked to kidney cancer, liver cancer and lymphoma

9M ago

Child dies a day after flu diagnosis

41 children have died from flu-related causes this flu season, including a fourth-grader who died just one day after being diagnosed

2H ago

Woman dies after eating at Michelin-starred restaurant

One woman died and 28 other diners have fallen ill after eating at a Michelin-starred restaurant in Valencia, Spain

3H ago

FDA warns about potentially harmful dietary supplements

Americans spent more than $40 billion on supplements last year, with 3 out of 4 people regularly taking them

3H ago

"Heartless": Hospital and doctor accused of giving lethal doses of fentanyl

CBS News spoke with five people who said their family members died while under Dr. William Husel's care at Mount Carmel Hospital

9H ago

One winner from tax overhaul: America's banks

Profits at U.S. financial institutions soared 44 percent to record highs last year, largely due to changes in tax law

4H ago

Blame Amazon: Stamps.com shares plunge 50 percent

The company said it no longer wanted an exclusive deal with the U.S. Postal Service due to Amazon's entry into shipping

4H ago

Zion Williamson injury rips through business of basketball

Freak injury for one of college basketball's biggest players sparks debate on everything from endorsements to insurance

6H ago

High rents create a new class of hidden homeless

As affordable housing gets harder to find, some newly homeless live out of their cars on the streets of Los Angeles

8H ago

Teachers on strike: "Public schools everywhere get shortchanged"

Oakland, California's strike is latest labor dispute as teachers across U.S. struggle with funding and student needs

8H ago

R. Kelly charged with criminal sexual abuse in Illinois

The singer has faced allegations of sexual misconduct with underage girls for decades and has denied them

3H ago

Parents of 13 kids plead guilty in "house of horrors" case

David and Louise Turpin shackled some of their 13 children to beds​ and starved them in horrific captivity case

4H ago

Patriots owner Robert Kraft charged with soliciting prostitution

"We're as equally stunned as anyone else," police said

5H ago

El Chapo's sons charged with drug trafficking

Joaquin Guzman Lopez, 34, and Ovidio Guzman Lopez, 28, allegedly conspired to send cocaine and other drugs into the U.S.

22H ago

Coast Guard officer with alleged hit list to remain jailed

Lt. Christopher Paul Hasson was ordered held on gun and drug charges; prosecutors describe him as "domestic terrorist"

22H ago