If you thought your clothes were filthy before you took them to the dry cleaner, the Environmental Protection Agency wants to let you in on a dirty little secret: the dry cleaning solvent tetrachloroethylene, also known by the slightly pithier moniker perchloroethylene, has been considered by the EPA to be a possible or probable human carcinogen since the mid-1980s. Its toxicity at low levels, mobility in groundwater, and sufficient density for it to sink below the water table have proven it to be somewhat more difficult to clean up after than oil spills. But boy, does it get the stains out.
And the EPA is trying to do something about it: the agency announced this week that it has awarded $69,000 in grant money to the New York State Pollution Prevention Institution at the Rochester Institute of Technology, which will work to promote alternative cleaning methods, including “wet cleaning,” which employs water-based biodegradable detergents. The Institute will advise and provide assistance to two cleaners as they convert to wet cleaning, and will them disseminate information to similar businesses. The grant was facilitated by EPA Region 2′s Pollution Prevention Program, which is hosting the “Unleashing Green Chemistry and Engineering in Service of a Sustainable Future” conference later this month.
And way out west, the EPA has awarded $313,ooo to the town of Loveland, Colorado in the form of a Brownfields Grant, intended for the cleanup and restoration of the now-derelict property that was once the home of “Leslie the Cleaner”: an assessment carried out by the City of Loveland in 2009 found soil and groundwater contamination from toxic dry cleaning chemicals. The grant will be provided through the EPA-supported Brownfields Revolving Loan Fund of Colorado, with brownfields referring to industrial facilities defined as abandoned or idle, “where expansion or redevelopment is complicated by real or perceived environmental contamination.” The EPA estimates that there are 450,000 or so such sites in the US at this time; Brownfields investments have, since the program’s inception, leveraged more than $16.3 billion in revitalization and redevelopment funds and created 70,000 new jobs, primarily in economically disadvantaged areas. You can learn more about the Brownfields Program here, and read what we’ve had to say about it in Green Mien here and here.