Minn. fishing equipment factory fined $7M for air pollution

ST. PAUL -- A state agency has levied its highest penalty ever — $7 million — against a company for polluting air in White Bear Township, Minn.

Water Gremlin Inc., maker of fishing lures and battery posts, released a chemical solvent into the air from its factory, according to the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency. The chemical trichloroethylene, or TCE, was released from 2002 until last January.

The company will pay a $4.5 million fine for the pollution. It will also install four air-quality monitors around the site at a cost of $1 million, and complete environmentally friendly projects for another $1.5 million.

The total cost of $7 million is the highest ever ordered by the MPCA acting alone, said spokesman Ralph Pribble. The MPCA and other agencies ordered $8 million be paid by an oil refinery that was polluting the area.

TCE is odorless and invisible. It is commonly used in factories as a solvent and degreaser for metals. TCE is also found in household products including adhesives, paint and stain removers, and parts cleaners.

According to the state Department of Health, elevated TCE exposures may increase the risk of birth defects and certain types of cancers.

Water Gremlin shut down the factory in January. It will be allowed to restart, but must use a safer alternative to TCE.