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November 19th, 2014

Why are dry cleaners often listed as a REC?

Dry cleaning machine from the 1960s

Dry cleaning machine from the 1960s

When conducting a Phase I Environmental Site Assessment, Gabriel’s Environmental Professionals (EP) know that when we find evidence of a current or past dry cleaner on site, we need to pay extra attention.

Dry cleaners raise a red flag for us due to the chemicals they use to clean the clothing (chlorinated and/or petroleum solvents) and historic poor housekeeping practices.  It was not uncommon for used solvents to be dumped out the back door before there were stricter environmental regulations.  Chemicals were often spilled around the machines, and rarely were the shops equipped with spill containment equipment as they are now required to have.

Contamination caused by dry cleaners can impact soil and groundwater, as well as cause vapor migration and intrusion issues.  Studies have shown that approximately 75% of all dry cleaners have some level of contamination.

As a result of these factors, EPs often list the former or current presence of a dry cleaner as a Recognized Environmental Condition (REC) in a Phase I.  While not every dry cleaner has serious contamination, it is generally prudent to investigate areas both inside and in the back of the building.

“‘Taken to the cleaners’ can have a particularly disturbing connotation for owners, sellers, and lessors of real estate,” says environmental attorney Lawrence Schnapf.

To learn more about the key risks posted by dry cleaners and strategies for managing these risks, download “Dry Cleaners: the Environmental Scourge of Commercial Real Property,” from Mr. Schnapf’s website.

If you have specific questions about dry cleaning contamination for a property you own or are considering purchasing, contact John Polich at jpolich[at]gabenv.com or 773-486-2123.