News Column

EPA Moves Ahead on Razing Cleaning Sites

Jan 7, 2013

Tyler Ellyson

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is proceeding with a plan to tear down three former and current Columbus dry-cleaning sites as it continues to battle a large plume of contaminated ground water.

The EPA announced Friday it would take the additional measures while continuing to treat water using an extraction system located on 10th Street.

Under the amended plan, the former Liberty Cleaners building at 1061 25th Ave., former One-Hour Martinizing building at 2262 25th Ave. and former Jackson Cleaners building at 960 24th Ave. will be torn down so soil can be removed from the areas before they are treated and restored.

The EPA previously identified the three sites as sources of two contaminants that were commonly used in dry cleaning that leached into the soil and ground water decades ago.

The presence of these carcinogenic chemicals -- tetrachloroethene and trichloroethene -- was first identified by state health officials in 1983 before clean-up was handed over to the EPA. The 10th Street Superfund Site was added to the National Priorities List in August 1990.

Nancy Swyers, project manager for the EPA, said during a public hearing here in June that contaminant levels had been significantly reduced in parts of the city, but additional actions were needed to speed up the clean-up process and restore ground water to safe drinking standards.

Representatives from the EPA couldn't be reached Friday for comment.

The contamination plume -- which now extends roughly from 23rd Street on the north, Sixth Street on the south, 33rd Avenue on the west and 16th Avenue on the east -- is kept out of the city's drinking water supply using the extraction system located on the south well field. This system has treated more than 4.3 billion gallons of ground water since 2004, more than half of which was then used by city.

However, it costs the EPA about $700,000 per year to operate, according to Swyers.

The amended plan is expected to further protect the city's well field and address an air-quality issue inside some properties located above the contaminated area.

The three buildings to be razed will be purchased by the EPA after the current tenants are relocated and eventually become city or state property.

Prestige Dry Cleaners now operates out of the former One-Hour Martinizing building. Top Score Games rents part of the former Jackson Cleaners building, owned by Jackson Fine Linen Service Inc., and a portion was previously leased by the city for the recycling center before it closed Oct. 1.

The EPA plan, which likely won't begin prior to 2014, will be paid for using 90 percent federal and 10 percent state funding through January 2016, when all the costs will be shifted to the state.

Each of the dry cleaners blamed for the ground water contamination previously paid a settlement to the EPA.

Source: (c)2013 the Columbus Telegram (Columbus, Neb.). Distributed by MCT Information Services.

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