PO Box 44 ~ Saxapahaw, North Carolina 27340 ~ Phone (336) 525-2003 ~ Email:


For Immediate Release
August 12, 2009

Sue Dayton, Statewide Coordinator NC Healthy Communities
(336) 525-2003

League launches state-wide campaign to involve communities in safe cleanup of dry cleaning sites

42 North Carolina Counties have contaminated soil and groundwater

Today the Blue Ridge Environmental Defense League launched a statewide community-centered campaign to ensure the public is involved with cleanup of dry-cleaning contaminated sites. The League’s goals include educating residents about the dangers of toxic dry cleaning solvents, securing community level influence on state decision making, and protecting water quality and human health. The League is working with their network of chapters and organizing new community groups located near these contaminated dry cleaning sites.

State officials have determined there are 1,500 sites contaminated with the toxic dry-cleaning solvent known as perchloroethylene or “perc.” Of the 1,500 sites, approximately 193 have been ranked by the state’s Dry Cleaning Solvent Cleanup Act (DSCA) program according to the extent of contamination and degree of threat to the public’s health and the environment. The top forty-five “priority sites” include contaminated dry cleaning sites located in Wake, Durham, Orange, Cabarrus, Onslow, Winston-Salem, Mecklenburg, Guilford, Forsyth, Iredell, Catawba, Scotland, Gaston, Cumberland, Onslow, Pasquotank, Polk, and New Hanover Counties.

Sue Dayton, the League’s NC Healthy Communities Coordinator said, “Dry cleaning solvents have contaminated drinking water supply wells in many of these counties.” She added that so far Wake County holds the record for having the most priority sites (10), and contamination from at least 6 contaminated dry cleaning sites in Raleigh have impacted creeks, streams and rivers.

Funding for clean up of the contaminated dry cleaning sites comes from a tax placed on both perc and petroleum-based solvents under the DSCA program. The tax paid by dry cleaners to decrease the levels of contamination at these sites does not include compensation for residents whose health and property has been ruined by perc contamination.

Dayton concluded, “There is no amount of money that can compensate a community for its loss of well-being as a result of perc contamination. The solution is not to continue to allow dry cleaners to use perc, via stricter laws, taxation or any other means. The solution is to stop the use of perc, and replace it with cleaner, safer alternatives.”

Perc has been found to have contaminated land, groundwater, private drinking water wells, rivers, creeks, public buildings, private residences and people. Perc has been strongly linked with causing cancer, reproductive problems, liver damage, respiratory failure, and birth defects. Toxic by-products associated with the breakdown of perc in the environment are also linked with causing a variety of human illnesses.

Chemical “perc” plumes present in groundwater range in size from several feet to thousands of feet in length. In many instances toxic vapors from perc-contaminated soil and groundwater threaten residents living in or near these contaminated dry cleaning sites. In Durham, for example, at the site of a former dry cleaning business, members of an African American church congregation were unknowingly exposed over a long period of time to toxic perc vapors that had seeped through the building’s walls and floor. The state determined the vapors “posed an imminent health threat” to members of the church’s congregation, and the building has since been condemned.

The dry cleaning industry continues to use perc despite legislation introduced in 1999 by environmental groups led by the Blue Ridge Environmental Defense League aimed at eliminating perc with a state-sponsored program that included a phase-out of toxic dry cleaning solvents with built-in incentives to dry cleaners to switch to cleaner, safer non-toxic alternatives. Instead of acknowledging the extreme hazards associated with the use of these toxic dry cleaning solvents, the dry cleaning industry successfully derailed the legislation.

For more information contact Sue Dayton, NC Healthy Communities, at: 336-525-2003 or