Dangerous chemical levels in the air at two Schenectady businesses prompted the state Department of Environmental Conservation to call for immediate cleanup or closure of the former dry cleaner site.
The site at 1122 State St. is home to Midtowne Laundry Center and No. 1 Chinese Take Out Restaurant. DEC records indicate it is also home to an unsafe level of dry-cleaning chemicals that are associated with damaging health effects after long-term exposure.
The DEC issued an order dated March 13 that calls for the property owner to submit a remediation plan, or the businesses could be shut down.
Testing from January 2016 showed unsafe levels of tetrachloroethene, known as PERC, and trichloroethene, or TCE. The chemicals stem from a dry-cleaning facility that operated at the site in the 1970s and 1980s. PERC and TCE are chemicals that are widely used in the dry-cleaning business.
State-Albany Properties, LLC, owns the site and submitted a remediation plan Monday, the DEC said, declining to disclose the details. The plan is under review, but must include an effort to reduce indoor chemical air levels to acceptable levels, and an annual indoor air testing system that would show the remediation measures continue to be effective.
If the plan is not approved, the businesses on site must cease operations until a plan can be implemented, according to DEC documents.
The DEC notified the property owners in March 2016 that PERC and TCE levels exceeded the Department of Health’s exposure guidelines, and that patrons continued to be exposed to the chemicals.
The property owners face a fine of up to $20,000 for the environmental violations, though the fine will be reduced to $5,000 if they comply with the required remediation plan.
The January 2016 testing showed there were 2.7 mcg/m3 of TCE in the air, according to the DEC order. The Department of Health’s long-term exposure guidelines suggest levels should not exceed 2 mcg/m3.
The testing also showed a level of 190 mcg/m3 of PERC in the air at the site, according to the DEC order. The DOH’s long-term exposure guidelines suggest levels should not exceed 30mcg/m3.
The laundromat and Chinese restaurant take up more than two-thirds of the site, and the rest is covered with pavement. That makes direct contact with potentially contaminated soil and ground water unlikely.
However, there’s still a potential public health risk as the chemicals can spread through vapor in the air, the state says.
Short-term exposure to PERC can lead to dizziness and headaches, while long-term exposure can damage the liver, kidney and immune system, according to the New York State Department of Health.
The short-term effects of TCE are similar to those of PERC, according to the DOH, but long-term exposure can cause cancer.
The State Street property was designated a Superfund site in 2012, and state officials began testing to determine the extent of contamination.
The site was previously a focus of the Brandywine Plume Trackdown, an investigation in the Brandywine area of Schenectady to find the source of PERC ground water contamination.
The investigation, which started in 1997 and was reopened in 2009, identified the Midtowne Laundry and Former Marlou Formal Wear as the two sources of contamination.
In 1997, investigators found pollution in the ground water near the site, but not enough to require remediation.
In 2009, another investigation was performed to determine the source of ground water pollution in the area. Over the next three years, 40 wells were installed to track down the sources.