Dry Cleaning Operations & Their Impact on the Environment
A simple-language history of dry cleaning in the U.S., and how it works, step by step, can be found at https://drycleancoalition.org/tour/Drycleaning_Virtual_Tour.pdf, a 37-slide virtual, image-rich tour that can be taken while you have fun with your lunch sandwich or morning coffee.
The traditional chemicals used in dry cleaning contain carcinogenic elements. Their physical characteristics enable them to infiltrate concrete slabs, underlying soil and down to groundwater with ease. A few ounces of dry cleaning solvent reaching groundwater can end up with a cleanup cost in the hundreds of thousands of dollars.
In a 2004 Dry Cleaner Symposium sponsored by the Groundwater Resources Association (GRA) of California, a representative of the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality explained the challenges of funding dry cleaner remediation. The average resale value of dry cleaners was about $130K, while the average cost to cleanup dry cleaner releases was $200K. It was estimated that there were about 2,800 active dry cleaners in the United States requiring remediation, and the number of inactive cleaners was four times as great.
Most dry cleaning operators have been unable to afford the cost of the cleanup, a stark contrast to the case of petroleum leaking underground storage tanks (LUSTs) where states across the U.S. established funds to assist the responsible parties pay for the cleanup. In California, the UST Cleanup Fund backs up such cleanups up to $1.5 million per case.
In the case of dry cleaners, only thirteen states established funding programs for the cleanup, but on a much lesser scale. California is not in this program
US EPA (http://www.drycleancoalition.org) informs us that there are approximately 36,000 active dry cleaning facilities in the United States. This number includes commercial, industrial and coin-operated facilities.
Soil and groundwater contaminated by dry cleaning solvent are associated with most of these facilities. One study estimated that 75% of these facilities were contaminated.
In addition to the active dry cleaning facilities, there are an unknown number of former dry cleaning sites that are also contaminated.
Since dry cleaning facilities are located in urban areas, dry cleaning solvent contamination has impacted a large number of public water supply wells and threatens many other wellfields. Not the least of a concern is the potential for migration of subsurface toxic vapors that can infiltrate inhabited structures.
(in the image above, VOC stands for Volatile Organic Compounds.)
To address this problem, 13 states have developed dry cleaning solvent cleanup programs. The State Coalition for Remediation of Drycleaners (SCRD) (http://www.drycleancoalition.org) was established in 1998, with support from the U.S. EPA Office of Superfund Remediation and Technology Innovation.
The Coalition's primary objectives are to provide a forum for the exchange of information and the discussion of implementation issues related to established state drycleaner programs; share information and lessons learned with states without drycleaner-specific programs; and encourage the use of innovative technologies in drycleaner remediation.
Summer 2016 newsletter of the Coalition provides this statistics:
More to follow.