You’ve likely heard about the Trichloroethylene (TCE) emissions concerning the local business Water Gremlin. TCE is a volatile organic compound that is a known carcinogen and is associated with kidney cancer, liver cancer, non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, as well as other health effects.
While Water Gremlin had been using TCE legally to manufacture its products (lead battery terminals and lead fishing sinkers), state regulators discovered the company was violating its state air emissions permit by venting TCE at high enough levels to threaten human health up to 1.5 miles around the facility in White Bear Lake Township. This violation had been happening since at least 2009 due to a failing carbon absorber used to clean air emissions, and the long-term implications to human health are yet to be known in the surrounding communities. These unfortunate events led to something remarkable at the state legislature in 2019—a bipartisan effort to ban TCE in Minnesota.
During the 2019 state legislative session, both the Minnesota House and Senate voted to phase out and ban TCE (with some flexibility built in for specific, carefully regulated uses). The efforts were led by Representative Amy Wazlawik (DFL-38B) and Senator Roger Chamberlain (R-SD 38), an important show of work across the aisle.
Though the bills and the ban ultimately failed to make it through a conference committee at the end of the legislative session, a larger conversation of how to pass a statewide ban of TCE will likely be back on the table in the 2020 session. There are already safer alternatives to TCE, and Minnesota has the ability and the responsibility to act now—especially in light of what we’ve seen happen in the White Bear area.
TCE continues to be used by manufacturers across Minnesota. In addition to air emission releases like the Water Gremlin problem, TCE can leak into groundwater supplies and a number of Minnesota communities have already been forced to take action to protect their drinking water. A bipartisan effort to ban TCE would continue to emphasize Minnesota’s commitment to getting harmful chemicals out of our society and making all of our communities safer. We can prevent another community from being harmed by TCE, and this legislative session we should make it so. It is imperative we as Minnesotans come together to protect our families, our neighbors, and our environment.
At Conservation Minnesota, we are working with your elected officials to ban TCE in the 2020 legislative session and prioritize a safer future for Minnesota’s communities. The issue may have started in White Bear Lake, but pollution does not have borders and our air and water are affected every day by this chemical. It’s important to contact your legislators about this issue as the new year begins and we look forward to a successful 2020 legislative session. Help us protect the Minnesota we all love.
Keely Cervantes is Conservation Minnesota’s East Metro Regional Manager. She has an agricultural background and works on many conservation issues that affect Minnesotans. She can be reached at email@example.com
Nels Paulsen is the Policy Director at Conservation Minnesota. During Minnesota’s legislative session you can find him attending hearings and tracking legislation at the finest state capitol in the country. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.