DEQ: $250K cleanup underway at old cleaners

DEQ: $250K cleanup underway at old cleaners

Source:, April 12, 2019
By: Sheri McWhirter

Tetrachloroethane remediation system installed in Traverse City

A new pollutant mitigation system is up and running in a downtown Traverse City building.

A dry-cleaning business called Coddington Cleaners operated out of 124 N. Maple St. until 2009 when the building was sold.

State environmental officials and hired environmental consultants on Monday installed a piping system designed to pump out volatile gas contamination left behind by the business beneath the structure, where today jewelry designer Kim Bazemore creates her metalworking pieces.

For years dryers were vented outside the building while the dry cleaner was in business, and over time dry-cleaning fluid called tetrachloroethane, often known by the acronym PCE, leached into the soil and eventually beneath the building’s concrete floor.

Officials with the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality learned about the contamination when a baseline environmental assessment was completed 10 years ago when Bazemore bought the commercial property.

Bazemore said she inquired with the DEQ and local brownfield officials about cleaning up the pollution, but nothing happened until right after she moved into the Traverse City building that already housed her business. She said she worried about what PCE concentrations DEQ officials might find, particularly since she didn’t have any other residence at the time.

“I had just sold my home and decided to live here full time,” Bazemore said.

David Maynard, DEQ senior environmental quality analyst, said the state agency began to look at the site a few years ago because of concerns the PCE may percolate into the nearby Kids Creek, which is immediately south of the location. Site investigation and sampling of soils, groundwater and soil gas — gases found in the air space between soil particles — showed PCE was not leaching into the stream, he said.

Kids Creek is among the streams listed by state regulators as an impaired waterway because of sedimentation, flow alterations and stormwater runoff, all the results of human impacts on the creek.

Heather Smith, baykeeper with the Watershed Center Grand Traverse Bay, said the Grand Traverse Bay watershed is plagued with contamination sites, and remediation of these sites is beneficial to both water quality and public health.

“Because this particular site is close to Kids Creek, it is incredibly important to treat the contaminated groundwater so that the pollutant is not further mobilized,” Smith said.

Maynard said despite the good news about not finding the contaminants in the creek, DEQ officials did find extensive amounts of PCE under the concrete floors and evidence it seeps into the building’s indoor air. The sampling work provided environmental regulators with a three-dimensional vision of the location and concentrations of the contaminant around the building, he said.

“The PCE is, at times, just above concentrations considered harmful after a lifetime or chronic exposure. As such, it is not an emergency, however the PCE needs to be removed,” Maynard said.

The new system is meant to “gas-off” enough of the chemical and bring the building’s concentrations below that chronic exposure risk level. It’s a state-of-the-art chromatograph monitoring system that allows for real-time and remote monitoring and control, Maynard said, among the first in the state with that ability.

“The system will consist of boring under the floors and installing a piping system that will, in essence, vacuum out the PCE gas and capture it in a carbon filter,” he said.

Maynard said the pollutant remediation project cost approximately $250,000 and was funded through the DEQ’s annual budget.

This type of PCE contamination is quite common at old dry-cleaning facilities, he said, and this type of advanced remediation system is expected to become more common.

The monitoring and removal system was expected to begin pulling PCE from beneath the building on Thursday, after it ran since Monday to establish a baseline, Maynard said.

Bazemore said she’s grateful the DEQ stepped in to clean up the contamination.

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