Owning and operating your own business may have been a lifelong dream. Now that you have seen your dry cleaning business launch and grow, you might be thinking about some long-term challenges you could face. One of those challenges often goes overlooked: being liable for cleaning up chemical contamination from your business.
The toxicity of PERC/PCE
PERC/PCE, the colorless liquid used for years to dry clean clothes and clean spots, can be very toxic. In fact, the EPA has classified PCE (also known as perchloroethylene) as likely carcinogenic to humans. Because it’s so toxic, California law mandates phasing out the use of PERC in dry cleaning by 2023.
Yet, PCE still has long-term effects if it has leached into the soil and water system. Drinking water contaminated with perchloroethylene can lead to kidney damage and increases cancer risks.
If your business operates on the site of a dry cleaning business that used PCE for years, the site likely is contaminated and the chemical could have leached into the groundwater. You may face a lawsuit in the future if PCE has polluted the drinking water in your neighborhood.
Liability for toxic PCE cleanup
What you should know about the liability for environmental cleanup of PCE includes the following:
1. You’ll need to understand the costs of cleanup efforts.
2. You may need to locate former property owners/operators. They may share in the liability for cleanup costs.
3. You may need to search for old insurance policies that could cover some of the liability costs.
Working with an environmental attorney
If you suspect you may need to clean up PCE pollution in the future, you may want to contact an environmental law attorney. An attorney can help you understand what costs may be involved and what environmental regulations you’ll need to follow. An attorney also could help you with determining if former owners also are liable for cleanup costs or old insurance policies could cover some costs. In the end, being a responsible business owner includes protecting your community at large from any chemical hazards your business is responsible for.