The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has proposed a $19-million plan to remediate a New Jersey-based dry cleaner’s property, after hazardous cleaning solutions leaked into the soil and groundwater for more than 30 years.
White Swan Cleaners and Sun Cleaners operated in the area between 1960 and 1991 and are believed to have leaked volatile organic compounds, including perchloroethylene (PCE) and trichloroethene (TCE), both of which are carcinogenic and cause liver damage.
Vapors from the chemical contamination have seeped into some residential and commercial buildings in the local vicinity.
The contaminated site is being remediated under the U.S. Superfund program because the dry cleaners are no longer in business and are unable to cover the cost.
“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 Enck in an August 20, 2013 statement to media. “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 27 public meeting.”
Under the remediation plan, about 5,000 cubic yards of contaminated soil at the former White Swan property will be dug up and disposed of at a facility licensed to receive the waste. The excavated areas will then be filled with clean soil.
Soil vapor extraction will be used to reduce the volatile organic compounds in the soil by extracting them in vapor form with a vacuum and then filtering the vapors through carbon filters to remove contaminants. Additionally, at the Sun Cleaners property, a technology called air sparging will be used to reduce the contamination in the ground water. Air sparging is the process of injecting air directly into the contaminated ground water. As the air bubbles rise, the volatilized contaminants are carried up into the soil and removed by an extraction system that collects the vapors.
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.
EPA has identified Bank of America as a party potentially responsible for the site and the investigation and study of cleanup alternatives was paid for and performed by Bank of America.