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Dry Cleaners – A Source of Pollution

Many drycleaning sites have environmental contamination because of minor leaks and spills of drycleaning solvents or process wastes. Some leaks occur from containers of solvent or waste stored outside of the drycleaning plants; however, many problems result from small drips of solvent on the floors inside the drycleaning operation. Many of these solvent releases occur on a daily basis during normal drycleaning operations.

The leaking solvent contaminates the soil under and around the plant. It eventually seeps down to the water table where it contaminates large volumes of groundwater. One goal of the Drycleaning Restoration Trust Fund Act is to stop this type of ongoing environmental contamination from drycleaning plants. In order to reduce the potential for environmental contamination, containment measures should be installed to prevent spills and leaks of solvents from leaving the drycleaning facility. South Carolina's environmental regulatory standards allow only a few parts per billion (ppb) of the drycleaning solvent to be present in the soil or groundwater under a facility. Even a few teaspoons of solvent can contaminate significant amounts of soil or water above these levels. The resulting contamination can potentially require hundreds of thousands of dollars to correct.

For instance, 1 ounce of perchloroethylene released directly into water can contaminate nearly 2.5 million gallons of water above regulatory concentrations. Similar regulatory levels exist for compounds normally found in many common spotting agents. Some compounds found in petroleum-based solvents have similar regulatory standards as perchloroethylene. Small releases of petroleum-based solvents may contaminate significant quantities of water; however, the amount of water that will be contaminated cannot be readily calculated since petroleum-based solvents are mixtures of many compounds. Generally, one ounce of a petroleum-based solvent released directly in water results in several hundred thousand gallons of water contaminated above the regulatory standards.

Where are containment measures required?

Containment measures are required around all areas where drycleaning solvents are used or stored. In addition, you must have adequate containment measures around any waste that has been in contact with drycleaning solvents. There are specific requirements of the law that apply to the various areas of a drycleaning plant.

Also see dry cleaning regulatory information.

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