From: Roger Greenway, ENN
Published August 27, 2013 06:19 AM

Clean up at site contaminated by dry cleaners advances

Dry cleaners seem to be everywhere. We all use them, and couldn't imagine keeping our non-washable garments in top shape. Unfortunately, some of these businesses experience leaks of cleaning solution which can cause serious soil and groundwater contamination. One such site in New Jersey is being remediated under the federal Superfund program. This happens when those responsible for the contamination are no longer in business, and can't be made to fund the clean up. This site is estimated to cost more than 18 million dollars to remediate!

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The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has proposed a plan to clean up contaminated soil and ground water at the site (White Swan Cleaners/Sun Cleaners Superfund site) in Wall Township, Manasquan Borough and Sea Girt, New Jersey. Previous dry cleaning operations in Wall Township caused the contamination of the soil and ground water with volatile organic compounds, including perchloroethylene (PCE) and trichloroethene (TCE). Exposure to these chemicals can have serious health impacts, including liver damage and increased risk of cancer. The plan proposed will require the excavation and treatment of contaminated soil and the treatment of some ground water.

"Thirty years of operation by local dry cleaning companies have left a toxic contamination that will cost $19 million to address," said EPA Regional Administrator Judith A. Enck. "This is an astonishing toxic legacy that the EPA is addressing. Our top priority is protecting public health and the local environment. The public is urged to attend the August 27th public meeting."

White Swan Cleaners and Sun Cleaners operated in the area between 1960 and 1991 and are believed to have contributed to the PCE and TCE contamination in the soil and ground water. Vapors from the chemical contamination have seeped into some residential and commercial buildings in the vicinity. Area residents receive their drinking water from deep ground water that runs well below the layer of ground water that is contaminated. It is monitored regularly to ensure the water quality meets drinking water standards.

In December 2001, the EPA and the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection began investigating whether vapors from the contamination in the area were getting into homes, schools and businesses. Of approximately 500 properties sampled to date, 34 have needed mitigation systems to vent the vapors. These have all been installed. Indoor air sampling designed to identify any homes that may have unacceptable levels of PCE or TCE vapors in their basements is an ongoing active program.

The EPA added the White Swan Cleaners/Sun Cleaners site to the federal Superfund list of most contaminated hazardous waste sites list in 2004.

Dry cleaners sign photo via Shutterstock.

Read more at US EPA.

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