Cleaning up Contaminated Soil and Groundwater at Dry Cleaning Facilities

This document is for general information only and is not intended to replace, interpret, or modify laws, rules, and regulations.

Why should I clean up my facility?

A dry cleaning facility can contaminate soil or groundwater with hazardous chemicals used in dry cleaning. Such a situation can create a danger to the environment or public health. Some of the reasons to clean up these hazardous chemicals in a timely manner are:

  • Property Transactions: The dry cleaner may be faced with difficulty in borrowing money or selling dry cleaning property if it is contaminated.
  • Potential Liability: The dry cleaner may be faced with the filing of private party lawsuits seeking compensation or cleanup if the property is contaminated.
  • Potential Enforcement Action: Illinois EPA is authorized to respond to and clean up or control releases of hazardous substances and petroleum. Costs and damages incurred by the Illinois EPA as a result of such releases are recoverable from responsible parties (e.g., dry cleaners).

What is the Site Remediation Program (SRP) and how can it help me with my cleanup?

The Site Remediation Program (SRP) is an Illinois EPA program where participants may voluntarily clean up hazardous chemicals at dry cleaning facilities with Illinois EPA oversight.

Under the SRP, the Illinois EPA provides oversight services at such cleanups. This includes the issuance of a No Further Remediation (NFR) Letter after the cleanup is performed satisfactorily.

Steps required to clean up a site under the SRP are:

  • Conduct a Site Investigation
  • Develop Cleanup Levels
  • Plan the Cleanup (i.e., remedial action)
  • Perform and Document the Cleanup

Conduct a Site Investigation - Where and what should I check for at my facility?

Typical areas where hazardous chemicals may be present at a dry cleaning facility include:

  • Process areas and storage areas (e.g., areas where perchlororethylene, used filters, cartridges, and wastes are stored)
  • Dumpsters, utility lines
  • Cracks in the floor, entryways
  • Piping, floor drains, sump areas
  • Sewage line to the main storm or sewer lines
  • Known or suspected spill areas

Hazardous chemicals are also found in these wastes generated by the dry cleaning facility:

  • Used filters and filter media
  • Spent carbon and cartridges from carbon absorbers
  • Still residues (evaporator or cooker sludge)

Typical hazardous chemicals found at dry cleaning facilities are:

  • Perchloroethylene (Tetrachloroethylene, PCE, or perc)
  • Trichloroethylene (TCE)

These chemicals can breakdown further into other hazardous chemicals that also have special handling requirements.

Ultimately, the site investigation should characterize the extent and concentration of hazardous chemicals in the dry cleaning property's soil and groundwater.

Develop Cleanup Levels - How do I know if my site is contaminated?

The Tiered Approach to Corrective Action Objectives (TACO) is the methodology that the SRP uses for developing site-specific, risk-based remediation objectives (i.e., cleanup levels). TACO takes into account the extent and concentration of hazardous chemicals, the possibility of people inhaling or ingesting the hazardous chemicals, and current and future use of the property.

TACO uses a three-tiered approach for establishing remediation objectives. Each successive tier allows more information to be used to develop remediation objectives (along with a more comprehensive site investigation and analysis).

Plan the Cleanup - What remedial actions should I take?

After remediation objectives are established using the TACO procedures, a dry cleaner may:

  • Reduce hazardous chemical concentrations to meet established objectives through active remediation (e.g., removal of contaminated soil, soil-vapor extraction system);
  • Restrict exposure to contaminated soil or groundwater or both by using engineered barriers or institutional controls;
  • Take no action, if hazardous chemical concentrations are not above the remediation objectives; or
  • Use a combination of the options above.

If a cleanup is conducted where contaminated soil or groundwater is generated as a waste, RCRA regulations may apply. Generators must classify the waste generated. If the waste is determined to be hazardous, it must be managed in accordance with RCRA requirements.

Examples on how property conditions can affect the selection of cleanup levels and suitable actions are provided in the TACO fact sheet 12: Dry Cleaning.

Perform and Document the Cleanup - When do I get my NFR Letter from the Illinois EPA?

Upon approval of a report that documents the cleanup and shows that the remediation objectives have been achieved, the Illinois EPA will issue a NFR Letter to the dry cleaner. To be effective, the NFR Letter must be recorded with the Office of the Recorder in the county in which the site is located.

Do I have to obtain the services of a Licensed Professional Engineer (LPE)?

Yes. All SRP site activities and report preparation must be conducted by, or under the general supervision of a person licensed in Illinois to practice as a profession engineer.

Some things to consider in selecting a LPE:

  • Professional reputation
  • References
  • Licenses, registration, certification
  • Experience in dealing with your particular problem and successful completion of similar projects in Illinois

Can I get financial assistance in performing the cleanup?

The Illinois General Assembly created the Drycleaner Environmental Response Trust Fund to establish:

  • A remedial action account to help pay for the clean up of dry cleaning solvent releases (e.g., solvent leaks, spills) from dry cleaning facilities discovered on or after July 1, 1999 and before July 1, 2004.
  • An insurance account for insuring environmental risks from releases from dry cleaning facilities within Illinois

The Fund is financed by three sources:

  • Dry-cleaning facility license fees
  • Dry-cleaning solvent tax
  • Insurance premiums

The Drycleaner Environmental Response Trust Fund Council, appointed by the Governor, will be responsible for managing the Fund and related activities (e.g., reimburse claimants, adopt rules, issue dry-cleaning facility licenses). The Fund will be solely managed by the Council, therefore the Illinois EPA can not provide any assistance with Fund-related activities (e.g., reimbursements).

Any questions regarding any aspect of the Fund, including what types of benefits are available and how to qualify for reimbursement, should be directed to the Fund Administrator at the telephone number listed at the end of this fact sheet.

Are there tax incentives to help clean up a property?

In an effort to encourage redevelopment of properties that have actual or perceived contamination, several tax credits have been created to assist in these cleanups. Both federal and state tax credit programs exist, as well as a Cook County tax credit. These programs have specific eligibility requirements and reimbursement amounts, and these rules differ from program to program.

For more information on:

SRP and TACO:

Voluntary Site Remediation Unit
Remediation Project Management Section
217-524-3300

Remediation tax incentives:

Ken Page
Illinois EPA-Bureau of Land
217-524-1284
Ken.Page@illinois.gov

Environmental regulations and good housekeeping practices for managing hazardous waste at dry cleaning facilities:

Illinois EPA - Bureau of Land
Permit Section
217-524-3300

Watch Your Perc!  fact sheet
Illinois EPA - Office of Small Business
1-888-EPA-1996

Waste and Emission Reduction Alternatives for Dry Cleaners fact sheet
Illinois EPA - Office of Pollution Prevention
217-782-8700

Selecting a Licensed Professional Engineer LPE:

How to Select an Environmental Consultant book
Office of Small Business
1-888-EPA-1996

Drycleaner Environmental Response Trust Fund

Williams and Company, Fund Administrator
1-800-765-4041 ext. 2164