[Durham INC] dry cleaning solvent contamination in Trinity Park neighborhood
sdayton at swcp.com
Tue Jun 16 17:45:34 EDT 2009
June 16, 2009
To The Members of the Durham InterNeighborhood Council:
My name is Sue Dayton, and I am a staff person with the Blue Ridge
Environmental Defense League. I am writing on behalf of Laura Drey, a
resident of the Trinity Park neighborhood, in Durham.
I am writing to inform each of you about a building located in the Trinity
Park neighborhood area (formerly Tharrington's Men's clothiers and after
that, BB&T) that used to be the site of a dry cleaning business. The
building is located at 1103 West Club Blvd. in Durham.
A dry cleaning chemical known as perchloroethylene used as a solvent to "dry
clean" clothing was found in the groundwater at the site at extremely high
levels, up to 8,000 times the acceptable federal EPA standards for drinking
water in the form of an underground plume that has migrated over a distance
of 350-ft. This chemical has been linked with a number of illnesses and
disorders that include leukemia, various types of cancers (skin, breast,
colon, lung, larynx, bladder, urogenital tract and esophageal cancers), and
hormone problems, infertility, menstrual disorders, sperm abnormalities, and
miscarriages among women and men who work at dry cleaning facilities.
Like most other city residents the Trinity Park residents get their water
from the city, and not from wells, which means that the people who live in
the area will not be drinking contaminated water. However, there are other
risks. The chemical has the ability to migrate from the groundwater upwards
through the soil, passing through the ground surface, through the
foundations and walls of the contaminated building, and back into the air.
As the chemical migrates in an underground plume it also can affect off-site
buildings posing additional risks to people and nearby properties. The plume
is heading in a northerly direction, towards Ellerbe Creek Watershed, albeit
at a very slow rate. At a recent and brief meeting with a few area
neighbors, staff with the Superfund Section of the DENR's Division of Waste
Management (DWM) explained that by the time the plume reaches Ellerbe Creek
it will have diffused to miniscule levels. While we hope this is the case,
there are still many uncertainties involved in the remediation or clean up
of this extremely contaminated site.
The most recent business that occupied the contaminated building was a
church that was unaware of the contamination. The levels of
perchloroethylene were so high inside the building that DWM determined it
posed an "imminent threat" to members of the church's congregation. The
building has since been condemned, and the state must now decide how to
clean up or mitigate the contamination. This will involve removal of the
source of contamination and possibly demolition of the entire building and
excavation of tons of contaminated soil.
There are concerns about the potential release of chemicals into the air if
the building is demolished. Because there may be a health risk to neighbors
who live directly adjacent to the contaminated building, the state has
contacted each of the property owners to test for the presence of the
chemical on their properties. However, currently there are no requirements
for the state to provide a written notice to neighbors in the area about the
contamination or how it intends to clean up the contamination.
There are over 1,500 contaminated dry cleaning sites in the State of NC that
pose a potential threat to public health and the environment. A proposed
plan by environmental groups to eliminate the use of perchloroethylene was
defeated by dry cleaning industry lobbyists in 1999. Despite the incredible
amounts of contamination to our water resources that have occurred from the
use of this dangerous chemical, perchloroethylene continues to be used by
dry cleaners and sanctioned by the state. Millions of taxpayer dollars will
be spent in attempts to clean up these contaminated dry cleaning sites. Once
groundwater is contaminated with a toxic chemical (such as
perchloroethylene) it is too late to be "cleaned up" to its original
Another related matter of extreme urgency is the proposed amendments to the
Dry Cleaning Solvent Act, HB 761, currently making its way through the NC
State Legislature. HB 761 (passed second reading in the Senate and on its
way to the House Environment and Natural Resources Comm).
HB 761 cuts in half the time for members of communities living next to a
contaminated dry cleaning site the opportunity to submit comments, questions
and request a public hearing on the plan for clean up of such a site. The
public's comments and questions must be given full consideration when public
health is threatened as a result of a polluting industry.
HB 761 also violates the public's right-to-know by only notifying the owners
of properties located directly adjacent to a contaminated dry cleaning site.
While notifying adjacent property owners of dangerous contamination is a
step in the right direction, written notification should be sent to all
surrounding area residents as a matter of public disclosure, and include
notification to organizations dedicated to protecting area natural resources
that may also be threatened by contamination.
State law requires that the DWM provide written notification to residents
who live 1,500 ft. from contamination caused by an underground storage tank.
Why is the requirement not the same for cancer-causing chemicals that have
migrated from contaminated dry cleaning sites that pose just as dangerous a
public health risk?
Since this is a matter of utmost urgency we would like to request to meet
with the Council at its earliest convenience to discuss next steps. Please
feel free to call or email me.
Blue Ridge Environmental Defense League
North Carolina Healthy Communities Program
PO BOX 44
Saxapahaw, NC 27340
<mailto:sdayton at swcp.com> sdayton at swcp.com
Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.
- Martin Luther King Jr.
Cc: Honorable Bill Bell, Mayor, City of Durham; Durham City Council Members
Cora Cole McFadden, Dianne Catotti, Fared Ali, Eugene Brown, Howard Clement,
Mike Woodard; Representative Paul Luebke; Representative Pricey Harrison;
Trinity Park Neighborhood Association; Durham People's Alliance; Ellerbe
Watershed Association; Friends of South Ellerbe Creek; Clean Water NC; NC
Riverkeepers; Toxic-Free NC; many more ...
-------------- next part --------------
An HTML attachment was scrubbed...
More information about the INC-list