Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Dry-cleaning byproducts a costly problem in Medford

By: Nathan Lamb

Contaminants from a long-gone dry-cleaning business are the prime suspect behind a costly problem in Medford, Mass., according to a local news story.

At issue are high levels of tetrachloroethylene at a city parking lot and three nearby businesses. Also known as perchloroethylene (or perc), the chemical is often used in dry cleaning, but it also produces vapors that can cause a variety of short- and long-term health problems.

The City of Medford is seeking federal grants to help pay for a $1.8 million remediation project to remove tainted soil from the parking lot.

Medford took ownership of the property via eminent domain in the early ‘60s. Before that, the parcel was home to three different dry cleaning operations, and city studies indicate that was the source of contamination. As owner, the city is responsible for cleanup.

Tetrachloroethylene has been linked to several different types of cancer, along with aversely impacting the body’s neurological system, kidney, and liver, according to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) website.

Perc often migrates in liquid form through soil, and three neighboring businesses have spent roughly $300,000 on state mandated remediation measures over the past five years. Two of the businesses' owners recently went on record saying the city should cover those costs, and that issue has yet to be resolved.

The dry-cleaning business that most recently operated at the site declared bankruptcy in 2008.

The city is commissioning a $90,000 engineering study of the site, which must be delivered to the Department Of Environmental Protection by March.


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