Unite to fight our own Erin Brockovich nightmare

Our White Bear Lake area has found itself in a fight against Water Gremlin, the company that has been spewing toxic chemicals into our community for 17 years or more. It is an Erin Brockovich-ype nightmare that has shocked our award-winning community to its core.

Recently, hundreds of gravely concerned citizens packed into Central Middle School auditorium to demand more answers and satisfying solutions than I felt the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) or Minnesota Department of Health seemed able to give.

Details of the company's infractions have been all over the news. I strongly believe Water Gremlin has put the health and safety of our community in jeopardy and our toxically overexposed residential area cannot tolerate any more. Enough is enough.

Many questions remain in my mind as to how the pollution, lack of honest self-reporting and complete safety equipment failure could have gone undetected by the MPCA for almost two decades. How is it possible that Water Gremlin, with its long history of serial permit violations, is being given multiple opportunities to comply? The manner in which this company is handled will resonate with all other industries around the state. 

I am extremely grateful to everyone who attended the meeting and feel our collective voices will not be silenced. At least four legislators were in attendance and promised their support and to look for a better model of industry oversight across the state. Please call or write our legislators, city and township officials to let them know we desperately need their help. After all, if it can happen here, it can happen anywhere.

I'd like to give a huge thank you to the five dynamic women who have formed the Neighborhood Concerned Citizens Group (NCCG). They have worked tirelessly on this issue and would love to have more people become involved in taking action to protect our community. To learn more, log onto wbanccg.org.

If we all “UNITE IN THE FIGHT,” we can make our community and state safer for ourselves, our children and future generations. We need to be able to trust our governing agencies to control dishonest companies and to protect us from toxic chemicals that put our lives, health and well-being at risk. We deserve nothing less. 

Page Stevens

White Bear Lake

 

Above and beyond at Cerenity

On Aug. 21, it was my privilege to enjoy an inspiring and heartwarming program at Cerenity Care Center.

The residents, with the help of staff, presented a music program entitled “Over the Rainbow.”

Featuring all the colors of the rainbow, the residents of the care facility provided the singing voices, aided by staff members who provided lovely visuals and music accompaniment. I’m sure that this smooth enjoyable program was the result of lots of extra hours by the caring and creative staff and the residents of Cerenity Care Center. Kudos to all involved.

Joan Michaud

White Bear Lake

 

Press photographer an asset to community

I wanted to write to let you know how much I and the committee of the Tour De Bar Bicycle Benefit Ride appreciate Paul Dols, the longtime photographer at Press. As you know, I am the chairman of the Tour De Bar. We just completed our 31st annual benefit on Aug. 3, 2019.

We have had the pleasure of having Paul cover our benefit over the years for the White Bear Press. This has included taking images and writing articles to make the community aware of our efforts each year.

As a testimonial, I can assure you that Paul excels at his job working at the Press. His hard work does not go unnoticed. The quality of his work is excellent. He is very personable and interacts with all of the participants in a great way. He has the ability to remain unseen and capture some really special images for us. We are so grateful. We hope he'll be able to continue to be part of our yearly benefit. Paul is a wonderful asset to the White Bear Lake community.

Mike Shearen

White Bear Lake

 

Self-reporting not serving citizens

I can see Water Gremlin from my porch.

And for the first time in months when I open the doors, I welcome the breeze coming from the direction of Water Gremlin. On Aug. 23, the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) shut the company down after its most recent criminal betrayal of the community. Water Gremlin was assessed a $7 million fine in March for releasing illegal and staggering amounts of the cancer-causing chemical trichloroethylene (TCE) into the community over the past 15-plus years. It is now clear that the fine, one of the largest ever assessed and meant to be a “powerful deterrent,” won’t deter these bad boys.

In late July, MPCA learned that the replacement chemical, trans-1,2-Dichloroethylene (t-DCE), only in use since March, was found in the air, soil and groundwater on the Water Gremlin property in addition to dangerous levels of TCE and lead — something Water Gremlin knew in June but withheld from MPCA for at least 40 days.

Two things are clear: (1) MPCA’s reliance on “oversight” by self-reporting is not serving the citizens of Minnesota and (2) Water Gremlin can’t be trusted with anything more toxic than playdough. 

Jeanne Laqua

White Bear Township

 

Disappointed in endorsement letter fee

I was disappointed to read in last week’s White Bear Press that the paper will be charging a fee for Letters to the Editor that are endorsements of political candidates or issues. I understand that these fees are a growing trend among local paper groups, but it is a trend that I find unfortunate. 

Political engagement is essential for our democracy, and engagement on the local level is the place where constituents can have the most direct impact on issues and governance. I believe the policy of charging for LTEs disincentivizes this engagement. I fear that a policy like this will all but guarantee that the only letters the Press receives will be ones written by campaigns. Candidates and their campaigns will be far more likely to pony up the fee than a citizen wanting to express their individual support. It also begs the question of which local issues are of more importance to the paper that they require no fee? Soon, will we be paying to express dismay about our water or air being polluted by a local business? Or pay to advocate for road repairs? What about criticizing articles run in the paper? I dislike the precedent that is being set.

I do understand and appreciate the challenge that this paper, and all print journalism, faces in this digital era. I value our Press and want to see it survive and thrive. However, I do not believe that this policy is well-targeted to the issue with which the Press is faced. Surely there is a way to address repetitive letters without charging citizens for their opinions. Perhaps a summary in the print with direction to read the rest online. Or if a form letter is sent, return it to sender and request that it be written in their own words. Charging for reader’s endorsements does not need to be the first course of action.

I hope the Press will reconsider this policy and listen to reader input regarding the best way forward.

Salena B.T. Koster

White Bear Township

 

Low branches on county road

There is an ordinance in the City of White Bear Lake in regards to road/street clearance, where there is supposed to be 3 feet from the edge of roadway by 8 feet high. This is what it was when I was notified many years ago.

Along Long Avenue from Kelly Court south to the Art Center, I believe Ramsey County is responsible to keep this in compliance to the ordinance. A few years ago, I contacted Ramsey County and they cleared this up. Approximately 2-1/2 months ago I called the number I was given by the city and the person answering said they would send out someone to check this out. Nothing has happened so far. The one sharp branch now is under 6 feet from the road surface. I told the operator to have them just cut down the one tree that is for sure the worst one. 

The trees in the area are being beaten up by trucks and now it will be the school buses beating on them.

Ramsey County, when will you correct this? Does the city have to beg you to do this?

Another issue along Long Avenue is the speeders. I swear to God, I’ve seen people driving 50 mph.

Roy D. Christensen Sr.

White Bear Lake

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