ST. PAUL — Minnesota is the first state to ban trichloroethylene (TCE), a toxic chemical that can increase risk for certain types of cancer and other serious health issues.

The Minnesota House of Representatives approved a bill May 13 prohibiting use of TCE, following the Senate's bipartisan lead three weeks ago. Authored by Rep. Ami Wazlawik (DFL – White Bear Township), the bill will protect Minnesotans from the carcinogen, which for years was spewed into the air surrounding the Water Gremlin plant in White Bear Township. 

Gov. Tim Walz signed the bill into law Saturday, May 16. 

“No Minnesotan should experience preventable health risks due to exposure to toxic chemicals,” said Rep. Wazlawik, who led the push to prohibit TCE. “After months of hard work with community members, we were able to pass a strong TCE ban with bipartisan support. I’m grateful to the White Bear Area Neighborhood Concerned Citizens Group who fought tirelessly to make this bill possible. Thanks to their efforts, Minnesotans will no longer be exposed to TCE.” 

The legislation prohibits use of TCE after June 1, 2022. Facilities with air quality permits will need to replace the chemical with a safer, less toxic alternative by that date. The bill also provides $250,000 in interest-free loans to help small businesses reduce TCE usage.

The news is gratifying for the Neighborhood Concerned Citizens Group (NCCG), which relentlessly lobbied the Legislature for a TCE ban. The group, founded by five women who live near the Water Gremlin plant, formed after the company admitted leaking higher-than-permitted levels of TCE for nearly 17 years.

The legislation is named after them and called the “White Bear Area Neighborhood Concerned Citizens Group Ban TCE Act.”

Spokesperson Sheri Smith said NCCG is ecstatic that Minnesota is first to outlaw the chemical, but notes there is still work to do. 

The game plan now is to focus on an Office of the Legislative Auditor request made last fall to investigate both Water Gremlin and how the environmental violations were handled by MPCA, Smith said.

 "We also know there has to be a better health study done on our citizens," she added. "Every few weeks we hear of someone else getting cancer, cancers linked to exposure to volatile organic compounds like TCE."

 

Debra Neutkens 

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