A new law aims to impose tougher safety measures on the use of perchloroethylene (a solvent commonly known as “perc”) by dry cleaners. The law requires dry cleaners to use “best management practices” while using the solvent. The law is backed by the dry cleaning industry, environmentalists and Illinois Environmental Protection Agency. The legislation includes improved control and containment systems, better training, and more comprehensive reporting.
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The law will require all new dry cleaning machines, beginning in 2013, to have “primary and secondary” control systems to reduce the concentration of perc, and to have sealed containment structures to contain leaks or spills by 2014. “This legislation will significantly reduce future contamination of wells used for drinking water through improved handling and disposal of perchloroethylene through practices that are reasonable and affordable to the thousands of drycleaners across Illinois, many of which are small, family-run businesses,” said John Kim, interim director of the Illinois EPA.
Under the new law, each dry cleaning facility will be required to have at least one person trained in “best management practices” to be present when operating dry cleaning machines. The training must be approved by the Illinois Drycleaner Environmental Response Trust Fund Council. Proof of training must be available at the dry cleaning facility and a refresher course must be taken every four years. Perc - used for dry cleaning since the 1930s - was the first chemical to be classified as a carcinogen by a federal agency. Well water tainted by perc in the Village of Crestwood put the issue front-and-center in 2009. There are 994 licensed dry cleaning facilities in Illinois.