Balancing New Illinois Perc Law and Small Business

Dr. John Spomar Jr., DBA, CED |

DOLTON, Ill. — Illinois is once again a leader in making it more difficult to own and operate a small business.

A new state law will require all new dry cleaning machines, beginning in 2013, to have “primary and secondary” control systems to reduce the concentration of perchloroethylene (perc), and to have sealed containment structures to contain leaks or spill by 2014.

This is really not an imposition, because a business owner knows in advance what is required for a new unit. As third-generation units die out, they cannot be replaced. Only fourth- and fifth-generation units are allowed on end date, but a review will be allowed.

A tougher safety measure on the use of perc requires dry cleaners to utilize “best management practices” while using the solvent. When a dry cleaning facility is operating dry cleaning machines, it will be required to have at least one person present who is trained and certified. The Illinois Drycleaner Environmental Response Trust Fund Council must approve the training. Proof of training must be available at each plant, and a refresher course must be taken every four years.

Education is always a good thing. Continuing education unit credits from compliance programs can be applied toward meeting the operator training requirements. The more an employee knows about his duties and the precautions that need to be taken, the better off we all are.

But I thought that’s what employee training was all about: hazardous communication programs, OSHA and safety training, and a signature of each employee that was trained. If all the extra “best management practices” certification must be accomplished under law, what happened to the current mandates? 

Another issue is hazardous waste. License renewals in Illinois now must include certification that all hazardous waste is being stored and transported lawfully. Manufacturers of perc and other solvents sold in Illinois will be required to provide the state EPA with information so that the Agency can determine if such chemicals are posing a health risk to the environment. 

According to Trust Fund Council minutes, license renewal application forms submitted after Jan. 1, 2013, must include certification that all hazardous waste is stored in accordance with all applicable federal and state laws and regulations. The dry cleaner must include copies of manifests for hazardous waste transported from his/her facility during the previous 12 months, or since the last time that copies of manifests were submitted, whichever is longer. After three years, if the Council has not received a copy of the waste manifest from a facility, it shall inquire further and may share those results with the Illinois EPA.

Perc has been in the crosshairs of environmentalists for years. Illinois is at the forefront of efforts to eliminate the wonder solvent of the 1960s. Are we a nation that continues to be the land of opportunity, or are we the land of making it difficult to find opportunity?

Leaders and members of the Korean community are to be commended for their diligent work in saving their businesses. I am a second-generation American, and my two sons are the third generation in this physically and mentally stressful dry cleaning industry. My dad and his brother opened up their dry cleaner just after World War II. All of us never lacked anything but time off.  Hard work and paying attention to customers has been the keys to success. 

Every one of us in the dry cleaning business does not want to adversely affect the environment. After all, we work and live in our businesses. We sure do not want our children or grandchildren to get sick from bad business practice.

Perhaps there are business owners in our industry who have no regard for the environment. Perhaps they are the ones making it almost impossible to concentrate on providing good service. Government wants our focus to be on paperwork.

About the author

Dr. John Spomar Jr., DBA, CED

Norco Cleaners


Dr. John Spomar Jr., DBA, CED, is a charter member of EPA’s NEPT program and chairman of the Illinois Alternative Solvents Coalition. Spomar operates Norco Cleaners, 1320 E. Dolton Ave., Dolton, IL 60419; phone, 708-841-6220; fax, 708-841-6222. E-mail


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