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Illinois Imposes Tougher Safety Measures on Perc Dry Cleaners

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Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn
Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn speaks during a press conference outside Brite Tailoring & Cleaners, Chicago, just prior to signing a new bill imposing tougher safety measures on perc use in the state beginning in 2013. (Photo: © Gov. Pat Quinn/Flickr)

Staff Writer |

New law mandates improved control/containment, better training, more comprehensive reporting

CHICAGO — Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn has signed a new law to impose tougher safety measures on the use of perchloroethylene (perc) by the state’s dry cleaners. House Bill 4526 requires Illinois dry cleaners to utilize “best management practices” while using the solvent.

The legislation includes improved control and containment systems, better training, and more comprehensive reporting, the governor’s office says.

The law will require all new dry cleaning machines operating in Illinois, beginning in 2013, to have “primary and secondary” control systems to reduce the concentration of perc, and to have sealed containment structures to contain leaks or spills by 2014.

“If improperly handled, dry cleaning solvents can seep into our groundwater and skies, and pose a threat to workers,” Quinn says. “This new law will help protect our drinking water, and we salute the dry cleaning industry — and especially the Korean American Drycleaners Association — for partnering with environmental advocates to get this done.”

“This bill is an example of what can happen when people in the dry cleaning industry, environmental advocates and concerned elected officials come together with a common solution,” says Sung Kang, chairman of the National Drycleaners Institute and past president of the Korean American Drycleaners Association. “This new law provides protections to both the environment and the industry.”

Each Illinois dry cleaning facility will be required to have at least one person trained in “best management practices” to be present when operating dry cleaning machines. The Illinois Drycleaner Environmental Response Trust Fund Council must approve the training. Proof of training must be available at the dry cleaning facility, and a refresher course must be taken every four years.

“This legislation will significantly reduce future contamination of wells used for drinking water through improved handling and disposal of perchloroethylene through practices that are reasonable and affordable to the thousands of dry cleaners across Illinois, many of which are small, family-run businesses,” says John Kim, interim director of the Illinois EPA.

Dry cleaning 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 Illinois EPA with information so that the Agency can determine if such chemicals are posing a health risk to the environment.

There are 994 licensed dry cleaning facilities in Illinois. Last year, about 45,000 gallons of perc were purchased in the state.

Perc-tainted well water in Crestwood, Ill., put the issue front and center in 2009. Of the 47 public health warnings issued by the Illinois EPA and Department of Public Health, 36 were due to detection of perc.

The full text of the bill can be downloaded as a PDF file here.

Excerpts from a press conference announcing the new law can be heard here.

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