Why Are So Many Dry Cleaners in Rochester Getting Superfund Status?

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superfund siteFor the second time in two weeks, a former Rochester dry cleaner has been declared a major environmental and public health threat. This August, the now-defunct Elite Vogue Dry Cleaners was officially added to New York State’s Superfund registry, which tracks hazardous waste sites.

The property, located in a building at 527-533 East Main Street on the eastern edge of downtown Rochester, was declared a Class 2 site by the NY Department of Environmental Conversation (DEC). A Class 2 site is any location deemed to be a threat to either human health or the environment and in need of cleanup.

Since at least as far back as 1994, environmental justice advocates have been trying to raise awareness of the fact that Latinos and African-Americans are more likely to live within the vicinity of a dangerous Superfund site.

State officials believe that the operators of the Elite Vogue cleaners either spilled or intentionally dumped toxic solvents on their property, although DEC officials say the local groundwater hasn’t been affected. In the past, dry cleaners, carpet, and upholstery cleaners sometimes used toxic chemicals to launder certain fabrics, but careless cleaners too often leaked or dumped dangerous solvents right into the ground. And with more than 40,500 carpet cleaning businesses alone operating in the U.S. today, those past practices have led to a number of Superfund sites across the country.

Just two weeks ago, another former cleaner in the Rochester area was given Superfund status as well. The shuttered Perfecto Cleaners on Dewey Avenue in Greece was also placed on the state registry as a Class 2 site.

However, now that the locations have been named Superfund sites, state funds can be used to help initiate necessary repairs. Statewide, there are thought to be 1,000 cleaners that themselves are in need of cleaning, at least 15 of which are located in Monroe County.