Water Gremlin Co. has been ordered to implement short-term safety measures, along with a permanent solution to protect workers within one year after the discovery of toxic lead dust at the plant.
The Water Gremlin factory manufactures fishing gear and lead terminals for car batteries.
State regulators temporarily shut down the plant following a weekend inspection that showed industrial hygiene problems, reported the Star Tribune. Officials from the state Department of Labor and Industry blamed the alarming levels of lead being tracked home from the plant for sickening 12 children of employees.
Leaks of hazardous waste containing lead and trichloroethylene were found throughout the building. The concrete floors had clear cracks in them, providing a pathway for the contaminated material to seep into groundwater, according to the Star Tribune.
The company must begin immediate remediation plans to test employees’ homes and clean up lead contamination in their vehicles, reported the Star Tribune. A long-term plan for controlling lead dust at the plant and preventing it from migrating off-site must also be completed for the plant to remain operational.
The Health Department is offering free lead testing for employees and their families.
Water Gremlin will bring in two 40 ft. decontamination trailers containing lockers that employees can use to enter and exit the plant, reported the Star Tribune. Employees must also wipe themselves down before exiting to ensure they are not carrying out lead dust, shavings and filings.
The company eventually plans to upgrade the plant to create changing facilities with showers to decontaminate workers.
The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) hit Water Gremlin with an administrative order, accusing it of failing for years to comply with hazardous waste regulations, such as used oil and other materials that contained lead.
“Water Gremlin is assessing the MPCA’s interpretations, as a number would result in unintended consequences, such as lead oxide being disposed of rather than recycled as per standard industry practices,” Water Gremlin executive Carl Dubois Dubois told the Star Tribune. “Water Gremlin intends to continue working cooperatively with the MPCA.”