About Water Gremlin
1. What does Water Gremlin do at its White Bear facility?
We manufacture fishing sinkers and battery terminals at our facilities. These products are distributed across the globe.
2. How long has Water Gremlin been in White Bear?
Water Gremlin has been a proud member of the White Bear Township community since its founding in 1949.
3. How many people work at Water Gremlin and what are the various jobs on site?
We employ approximately 340 people in White Bear Township. Positions include technicians, machine operators, quality control experts, engineers and administrative staff. We are proud to have a strong employee tenure, as many of our employees have been with us for more than 20 years.
4. Who buys Water Gremlin products? What is the profile of your typical customer?
Our fishing sinkers are sold directly and fully packaged to large retailers such as Walmart, Fleet Farm, Gander Outdoors, and Scheels Sporting Goods. Our battery terminals are sold to leading battery manufacturers that incorporate them into their products.
5. Who owns Water Gremlin?
In 2005, we were acquired by Okabe Company Limited, a publicly traded company located in Japan.
6. Why are there cranes at your facility? What are they used for?
Cranes occasionally come to our facility to load and unload equipment.
Environment, health and safety
1. Am I safe living near Water Gremlin?
Water Gremlin has a comprehensive system to monitor its emissions, with independent laboratory results reported directly to the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA). We performed an environmental review of the exterior of our facility in June 2018 and reviewed all other aspects of our operations in November 2018. We conducted an additional review in February 2019 after we discontinued our use of Trichloroethylene (TCE).
2. What is Water Gremlin’s environmental monitoring process?
We have a comprehensive system to monitor outdoor air concentrations of trans-dichloroethylene (t-DCE) – not considered a hazardous air pollutant by the Environmental Protection Agency – with independent laboratory results reported directly to the MPCA. We measure our usage of t-DCE in real time, so we can make immediate adjustments if needed.
3. Does Water Gremlin use a pollution control system, and how can you be sure it is working?
We are in the process of installing a pollution control system, and we will conduct recurring performance tests to ensure that it is working properly.
4. How does Water Gremlin use lead?
The materials used to make our products come from used lead batteries. Because of its high return rate, lead is the most recycled consumer product in the country. Lead batteries have a recycling rate of 99.3%, making them ideal for a circular economy.
5. How does Water Gremlin protect its employees and the community from lead exposure?
Our lead emissions are far below the federal reporting threshold set to identify facilities that might cause concern. Our process for creating lead avoids any outdoor air emissions.
6. Why does Water Gremlin make fishing sinkers that are made from lead?
We manufacture lead fishing sinkers to meet demand in the marketplace. We also offer lead-free sinkers (made from tin) for customers that request them.
7. What is TCE and how did Water Gremlin use it?
Trichloroethylene (TCE) is a man-made chemical used most commonly as a solvent in manufacturing to degrease metal parts. A variety of home products may contain TCE, including wood finishes, glues and adhesives, paint or paint removers, spot cleaners, and metal cleaners. We previously used TCE as a solvent to help produce battery terminals that prevent batteries from leaking. We are now using an alternate solvent called t-DCE, which is not considered a hazardous air pollutant by the Environmental Protection Agency.
8. What should I know about t-DCE?
t-DCE is non-hazardous, which is why most states do not have a permissible exposure limit for t-DCE. Minnesota’s limit is 35 times the limit set for TCE.
9. Why didn’t Water Gremlin start using a TCE alternative sooner?
Most TCE alternatives are flammable, and TCE is not. Our search for a TCE replacement – which began in the spring of 2018 – required non-flammability, which ruled out many of the possible alternatives.
10. Are any bodies of water, groundwater or soil impacted by Water Gremlin’s operations?
No. An assessment conducted by the Minnesota Department of Health states, “The TCE air releases from Water Gremlin would not have been able to reach the groundwater.”
11. How does Water Gremlin dispose of the waste that is created at its facility?
We produce very little waste at our facility. For the waste we do produce, we partner with third-party experts to safely dispose hazardous materials.
1. What is a Supplemental Environmental Project?
A Supplemental Environmental Project, or SEP, is a voluntary project that provides tangible environmental or public health benefits and is usually considered in settlement agreements related to a company or individual’s failure to comply with environmental laws.
2. What are the Supplemental Environmental Projects related to Water Gremlin?
We are working on two supplementary environmental projects to benefit public health and the environment:
Project one: Plant and maintain 1,500 trees in public areas in White Bear Township, White Bear Lake and Gem Lake. These trees will be planted starting in the fall of 2019 and the project will be complete by 2021.
Project two: Collaborate with the University of Minnesota on an education and outreach program for manufacturers that use TCE, with the goal of reducing use of the chemical. We are partnering with the Minnesota Technical Assistance Program through 2022 to identify the best opportunities for reductions in TCE use.
3. How can I learn more information about these projects?
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1. Why was Water Gremlin fined by the MPCA in 2019?
In July 2018 we discovered that our TCE emissions were not in compliance with our permit limits issued by the MPCA. Our internal findings, along with the results of a third-party environmental compliance audit we initiated, were reported to the MPCA. After several months of discussions with the MPCA to get back in compliance, we agreed to pay a fine related to increased TCE emissions, and we have taken the necessary steps to regain full compliance with the MPCA.
2. How much was the fine and where does that money go?
We paid a civil penalty of $4.5 million. The state legislature has since established a fund called the TCE Emission Response Account and transferred the civil penalty amount into that account. In addition, we agreed to pay $1.5 million to fund two supplemental environmental projects that benefit public health and the environment.
3. What are the potential health risks of TCE exposure?
For more information on the potential health effects of TCE exposure, visit this Minnesota Department of Health web page.
4. Have any neighbors been impacted by TCE emissions from Water Gremlin?
As of April 2019, the MPCA’s FAQ page about Water Gremlin stated that there was “no information indicating anyone has become sick as a result of TCE exposure related to Water Gremlin emissions.”
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