Former Dry Cleaning Locations Causing Contamination

By Katie Hargitt

Published 08/13 2014 04:12PM

Updated 08/13 2014 06:27PM

More than 90 percent of the contaminated property around Indiana started out as a dry cleaning business. A handful of those sites are located in Terre Haute.

"It's what I would call the price of progress," said Terre Haute City Planner, Pat Martin.

The contaminant found in former dry cleaning locations is called perchloreothylene, often referred to as perc. The problem began with dry cleaners and the chemical in the early 1900s when regulations were not as strict.
"Common practice in the past has been for the dry cleaners to dump the spent perc into the drains," said Bruce Palin with the Indiana Office of Land Quality.

"They can be hazardous to your health depending on whatever the concentration is and depending on the chemical contamination," Martin said.

The city of Terre Haute is responsible for cleaning up one of the sites at 9th and Margaret. Although it is a small piece of lance, the price is high. The city has already spent $60,000 on research and testing and could spend up to $70,000 more on the clean up.

"You can install a vacuum system. The vacuum system will take the chemical out of the ground much like a vacuum cleaner in a way. Another way of doing it is ingesting into the ground a sugar combination. Something as simple as molasses," Martin said.

Martin says the string of contamination sites should slow down. Regulations today are much more strict. Now, dry cleaners must report to state agencies and test frequently for leaks.

"The likelihood of this happening again is very minimal Much like gas stations, we went through a change in gas stations in 1998 or so," Martin said.

Some states, including California, have gone as far as to ban the use of perc in the dry cleaning process.

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