Dry cleaners are located in suburbs, shopping centers and business centers in many communities. The solvents they use to clean clothes and other fabrics can be released into the environment, causing pollution and contaminating soil and water. This may occur unintentionally.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is concerned about dry cleaning solvents because they can threaten human health, often cannot be smelled or tasted and can be harmful even in small amounts.
To mitigate this harm, the EPA provides information about available cleanup methods. These methods are intended to make the site and resources safe for their intended use. For example, a cleanup goal for a site that provides drinking water may be different from water used for another purpose.
When contaminants are found in drinking water, a filter can remove the contaminants until the groundwater is cleaned up. Pump systems can remove contaminated groundwater and wells can be installed below ground. The water can then be redirected to a storm sewer or sanitary sewer.
When vapors from solvents in soil rise to the surface, they can enter into buildings through cracks in the floor or their concrete foundations. Sealing the cracks in floors and walls and placing plastic sheeting on the ground to act as a barrier against soil gas may also be helpful.
In low-risk situations, cleanup may be possible by relying on natural conditions to degrade, disperse and dilute chemicals, but this process takes longer than most other cleanup methods.
If a drycleaner is faced with a contamination issue, an experienced environmental law attorney can review the situation and provide advice.