Hazards and Cleanup

The statute directs the DEQ to implement this statute in a way that protects public health and the environment and prevents additional dry cleaner sites from becoming contaminated. Major efforts conducted by the DEQ while implementing the statute are described below:

Advisory Committee

The DEQ appointed an Advisory Committee comprised of 14 members representing:

  • dry cleaning operators;
  • dry cleaning property owners;
  • dry cleaning industry members other than owners and operators;
  • citizens;
  • environmental organizations; and
  • local governments.

The Dry Cleaner Advisory Committee has been meeting periodically since December 1995 to advise the DEQ on policies and issues affecting the development and implementation of the Dry Cleaner program. For a list of members see Dry Cleaner Advisory Committee Members.

Outreach and Technical Assistance

Outreach and technical assistance activities have enabled the DEQ to communicate statutory requirements, provide other information, and become more familiar with the dry cleaning industry. DEQ outreach efforts include:

  • All of the dry cleaners in the state were visited by DEQ staff to provide technical assistance and discuss provisions of the statute and to observe the operation at the facilities;
  • Presentations made at state dry cleaner association meetings;
  • Information disseminated through industry-wide mailings. Most of the information was translated into Korean and Vietnamese for the benefit of the immigrant dry cleaner operators;
  • Technical assistance provided on the telephone or in meetings with dry cleaners, property owners, consultants, and attorneys;

The technical guidance and program information fact sheets were provided to all dry cleaners. These fact sheets were also made available through industry associations, industry meetings, and the DEQ web site. All fact sheets were translated into Korean and Vietnamese for the benefit of the immigrant dry cleaners.

Impediments Affecting Dry Cleaner Statute Implementations

During implementation of the dry cleaner statute, DEQ identified several impediments specific to the dry cleaner industry that needed to be considered as the program matured:

Perchloroethylene Can Be Difficult and Expensive to Clean Up

The technical means of removing Perchloroethylene (PCE) from water or soil are well developed and commercially available. For a given concentration of contaminant, reasonably accurate estimates of the cost of cleaning up a given volume of water or soil can be made. However, it is often difficult to estimate the volume of water or soil contaminated and the rate at which PCE concentration will decline over time. Both depend on site-specific factors that vary greatly. Volumes and concentrations cannot be predicted without detailed site investigations.

Cleaning up contamination from dry cleaning facilities can be expensive because of the characteristics of the solvent. For example, PCE leaks out of sewer systems through openings too small for water to pass. It is also heavier than water and can sink to the bottom of aquifers where it can slowly release contaminants to groundwater. Cleaning up contaminated groundwater to the levels required for a beneficial use such as drinking water can be difficult and costly.

Dry cleaner cleanups involving contamination in or near drinking water aquifers currently being conducted have projected costs ranging from $1million to $3 million. These sites represent worst case scenarios because they involve large releases that have contaminated or threaten to contaminate an aquifer used for public drinking water. Although there may not be a "typical" PCE cleanup because conditions vary so much from one site to another, the DEQ estimates the total cost to clean up all dry cleaner sites to be over $100 million.

Language Barrier

Approximately half the dry cleaners in Oregon have operators who speak Korean as their native language. Therefore, the DEQ provided all written guidance in both English and Korean. Vietnamese translations are also provided for the recent increase in the number of Vietnamese speaking dry cleaner operators.

Ability of Dry Cleaners to Make Capital Investment

Some dry cleaners in the state are unable to make the capital improvements necessary to comply with the requirements of becoming a zero release business. Companies that can not afford these compliance requirements will either go out of business, risk fines for operating illegally, or risk being ineligible for liability protection and funding from the program. Dry cleaners who have spent the money necessary to achieve compliance feel they are at a competitive disadvantage with those who have not made a similar investment and are not in compliance.