Pollution cleanup set for Washington Avenue dry cleaners

Pollution cleanup set for Washington Avenue dry cleaners

Source: https://www.timesunion.com, May 14, 2018
By: Brian Nearing

The state will be digging out an underground plume of potentially carcinogenic chemicals beneath a former Washington Avenue dry cleaners near several homes routinely rented to college students.

Plans by the Department of Environmental Conservation call for a $120,000 cleanup at the former site of RKO Cleaners, at 566 Washington Ave., to deal with unsafe levels of the industrial cleaning solvent tetrachloroethylene (PCE, also known as PERC). The chemical was found in the ground, groundwater and in vapors coming out of the ground.

PERC is listed as a potential carcinogen by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. The DEC cleanup plan also calls for the underground injection of chemicals designed to degrade any remaining PERC.

Work is expected to start this summer and last about two months as about 180 cubic yards (about 18 dump truck loads) of tainted soil are removed for disposal elsewhere. Parts of the site contain PERC at 100 times the level considered safe for residential use.

The property was run as a dry cleaners from 1964 to 2000, when it was destroyed by a fire that caused some drums of cleaning chemicals to leak into the ground.

The building was later demolished so tests of the polluted ground could be made, and the site was added to the state Superfund pollution cleanup program in 2013.

The work will be paid for by state taxpayers, as the last known owners of the property could not be located, according to DEC.

While there are unsafe PERC levels in the ground and groundwater beneath the site, the pollution “does not pose a threat to human health and environment,” according to a February 2017 environmental report by consultants Henning, Durham & Richardson.

There are residences just to the east of the building, some of which are rented for student housing, and the Abbott Tavern, a popular collegiate nightspot, to the south. The buildings were tested for the presence of potential PERC vapors.

Those tests found inside air in those buildings was safe. One building had a system installed to collect any vapors and vent them outside.

The property owners, identified on DEC paperwork at Louis Lettsome Sr., of Teaneck, N.J., and Sekyung Jeon, of Hartford, Ct., are currently delinquent on more than $152,000 in city, school and county property taxes, as well as interest and penalties, since 2001, according to Albany County.

The county has initiated tax foreclosure proceedings, but has refused to take formal ownership for fear of being stuck with the cleanup bill.

“The ultimate goal is to remediate this site for residential use, consistent with current zoning,” according to a DEC statement. “After completion of the interim remedial measure, endpoint samples will be collected and groundwater will be monitored to determine if additional remedial measures are required to render the site suitable for residential use.”

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