Dry cleaning pollution cleanups spotty
Written by Nina Lincoff on May 21, 2014
Miami-Dade County says it still needs more money funneled into the statewide Dry Cleaning Solvent Program, even though the state is providing $6.5 million for the program this year, $1 million more than had been expected.
The Dry Cleaning Solvent Cleanup Program, created in 1994, provides funding for cleanup of dry cleaning sites contaminated with toxic cleaning solvents. In 2013, $4 million went into the program, which wasn’t enough, said Wilbur Mayorga, environmental monitoring and restoration chief of the Miami-Dade County Division of Environmental Resources Management. This year, $5.5 million had been expected.
The unexpected additional funds are welcomed, and most likely the result of greater than anticipated revenues and educational outreach on the part of counties throughout the state, Mr. Mayorga said.
“The legislation did have the ability of having greater revenues, so they were able to allocate more funds,” Mr. Mayorga said.
Toxic dry cleaning solvents are of particular worry to the department. Dry cleaning solvents that have contaminated 1,250 sites statewide and 194 sites in Miami-Dade County have the potential to leak into private and industrial wells and groundwater and thereby pollute water supply.
Although the program has been around for two decades, only eight sites have been cleaned in Miami-Dade County. Today, 186 sites remain to be cleaned, Mr. Mayorga said. The slow progress, he said, is largely due to insufficient funds and different categorizations of each site.
“With the current funding, even at the rate it’s growing, it’s going to be 100 years to complete the cleanup,” Mr. Mayora said.
In an ideal world, $25 million would be put into the program each fiscal year, Mr. Mayorga said. “Even for the limited amount of money, it is a positive step from $4 million to $6.5 million. But because the funding is so limited, and based on the magnitude of work pending, it’s still not enough,” he said.
The closer a site is to a well or a high number of residents, the higher priority number it is given, and therefore it gets cleaned more quickly. How long it takes to clean a site depends on the level of contamination; it can take several years. Active and inactive dry cleaning facilities, wholesale operators and individual operators can apply for funding to clean sites, according to the Florida Department of Environmental Protection.
If there is an immediate and present threat to groundwater, however, a site can be red flagged for funding and cleaning immediately. The county is involved in monitoring and assessing the factors that affect the prioritization of sites, Mr. Mayorga said. Proximity to drinking wells, the population served and the overall risk for environmental contamination are all factored into the rankings.
“These solvents represent the greatest threat to our public drinking supply because of the vertical migration from the ground to the higher layers [of water] that we tap into for our drinking water supply. They are a tremendous risk for our drinking water supply,” Mr. Mayorga said.
One solvent to blame is the commonly used chlorine-based perchloroethylene, or PERC. PERC is a potential carcinogen that wasn’t regulated until an amendment was introduced to the Environmental Protection Agency’s Clean Air Act in 1993. In the past 20 years, dry cleaners have begun looking for less toxic and more environmentally friendly ways to launder clothing.
The new-to-Miami locker dry cleaner ZoomLocker utilizes SOLVONK4 (K4), a non-toxic, biodegradable organic solvent recommended by America’s Best Cleaners and the Green Business Bureau. K4 is made by German manufacturer Kreussler GmbH. ZoomLocker also uses only one wholesale dry cleaner to service all its locations, minimizing environmental exposure.
“With ZoomLocker we try to reduce environmental impact, and based on our model and how we operate we only use one plant but have multiple stores. We’re able to still target many clients,” said Marcel Monnar, a business development manager for ZoomLocker.
ZoomLocker lockers, into which users drop their clothes and from which they pick them up once items have been cleaned and returned, can be found in Coral Gables at the Gables Ponce and the Modera Coral Gables, as well as in Brickell at Brickell 1st and 1200 Brickell. There is also a ZoomLocker storefront at 166 Alhambra Circle.
By the end of this year, the dry cleaning and laundering service will be in six more locations in the Miami area, Mr. Monnar said.
“It’s the convenience,” Mr. Monnar said. “It’s dry cleaning on your time, and it’s not having to rush before the dry cleaner closes that makes the model appealing.”