Shelburne business stuck with cleaning PCE contamination Cleaning up a 20 year PCE Contamination

Shelburne business stuck with cleaning PCE contamination Cleaning up a 20 year PCE Contamination

Source:, February 27, 2018
By: Taylor Young

A Shelburne business owner is warning others after he says he unknowingly purchased property contaminated with PCE.

“It’s just been challenging,” said Sean Ryan, the owner of Elegant Floors.

From 1996 to 2000, a dry cleaning business occupied his building. Ryan has a black plastic bag taped by the construction zone that reads “Jason’s Dry Cleaning.” It was found stuffed into piping under the concrete floor.

“They were literally spilling the chemicals right into this vat,” said Ryan.

Dry cleaners can use harmful chemicals, most commonly used is perchloroethylene. Officials say the chemical migrates through the soil and groundwater quickly and has negative impacts on health. According to the Department of Environmental Conservation, about 400 hazardous waste sites across Vermont are contaminated with PCE, and sometimes businesses are built right on top of a site.

Until recently, nearly 3,000 feet of soil under Ryan’s business was contaminated with PCE, all of which the state says came from Jason’s Dry Cleaning.

“They pretty much got out of this scot-free,” said Ryan.

Because Ryan owns the property, he’s stuck footing the cleanup bill and all of the other costs that come along with it, like temporarily relocating his business to Williston. He estimates a loss of about $600,000.

“When you have a dry cleaner that is literally just spilling chemicals into the water system and there are no repercussions for it,” said Ryan, “it’s just wrong.”

Ryan says he didn’t get an environmental inspection before he bought the building and he regrets it. According to the state, that’s why he isn’t eligible for assistance to clean up the mess.

“If you are going to buy a house, you are going to get an inspection done. And we are suggesting that you do the same type of inspection due diligence before you buy any commercial industrial piece of property,” said Patricia Coppolino, with the Department of Environmental Conservation.

“You make mistakes in business and in life and you just got to suck it up,” said Ryan.

Out of the 400 contaminated sites across the state, officials say about 70 percent are caused by former dry cleaning businesses.

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