State says chemical contamination from former S. Asheville dry cleaner is contained

The NC Division of Waste Management has released a public notice regarding its intent to address hazardous chemical contamination at the Harris Teeter supermarket at 1378 Hendersonville Road, across from Carolina Day School in south Asheville.

A dry cleaning operation known as Blue Ridge Cleaners once operated on the site now occupied by Harris Teeter. The agency reports that contaminated groundwater has been detected in soils and groundwater beneath the building and the paved parking lot, as well as on the property of Carolina Day School across the street.

An environmental site assessment dated April 11, 2008, documented the collection of contaminated groundwater samples around the perimeter of the Harris Teeter building. Dry-cleaning solvents known as PCEs were detected in groundwater collected northwest of the former dry-cleaning facility. Chemicals are also present in surface soils beneath pavement in the parking lot and beneath the building, according to the report.

A Risk Management Plan for the site says there are no ecological concerns at the property, as the groundwater plume is stable and confined to the site and to the school property across Hendersonville Rd. It also reports that the contaminant concentrations are not likely to pose an unacceptable risk now or in the future, and that the plume is expected to naturally attenuate over time. The agency reports that the appropriate remedial action is to implement land-use restrictions on the site: any new ground-disturbing construction would require approval by the state, according to Pete Doorn, environmental program supervisor with the state’s Dry Cleaning Solvent Cleanup program.  The public is beinginvited to submit comments in writing by December 13. The state notified school administrators of the issue in mid-November.

There are an estimated 2,000 active and abandoned dry-cleaning sites in North Carolina. As many as 1,500 of these sites may be contaminated with solvents used in the dry-cleaning process.  In 1997, the North Carolina General Assembly passed a law to address this problem. The Dry-Cleaning Solvent Cleanup Act (DSCA) established a fund to help dry cleaners and property owners investigate and clean up contaminated dry-cleaning sites. The fund is supported by taxes collected on dry-cleaning services and solvents.

The state’s DSCA program performs risk assessments and identifies sites that will require cleanup and those that are appropriate for closure. As of 2009, in their most recent annual report to the legislature, the program has identified 310 operating or abandoned dry-cleaning facilities with environmental contamination by dry-cleaning solvents in North Carolina. Five of these are in Buncombe County:

Swannanoa Laundry, 22 Church St. (Assessment underway)
Swannanoa Cleaners, 712 Merrimon Ave. (Assessment underway)
Nu-Way Cleaners, 171 Patton Ave. (Closed on interim basis)
Blue Ridge Cleaners, 1378 Hendersonville Road (Closed in 1991)
Swananoa Cleaners, 1336 Patton Ave. (Assessment underway)

The state says that at most sites, remediation will be conducted to protect human health and “ecological receptors.” Soil excavation and, where necessary, soil-vapor extraction have been performed at 24 sites to remove contaminant sources that threaten indoor air in buildings and cause further degradation of groundwater. Remediation of groundwater has been initiated at 33 locations statewide.

The program is allowed to spend up to 1 percent of its fund balance each year to identify new sites—whether active or abandoned dry-cleaning sites—that may be contaminated. If contamination is found, and can be attributed to a particular facility, the responsible party is given the choice of entering the program as a petitioner or allowing the site to be addressed under the Inactive Hazardous Sites Program. In the latter case, the responsible party is required to reimburse the program for all costs of the investigation. The program has completed this type of investigation at 24 sites statewide, with work at another 11 locations underway.

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