Cancer-causing chemical PCE contaminates Colorado soil, water and homes — The Denver Post

Groundwater movement via the USGS
Groundwater movement via the USGS

Here’s an in-depth look at the problem of mitigating PCE (perchloroethylene or perc) spills around dry-cleaning operations, from Bruce Finley writing for The Denver Post. Click through and read the whole thing. Here’s an excerpt:

Spills releasing PCE, the cancer-causing chemical used in dry cleaning and metal degreasing, have produced at least 86 underground plumes across Colorado that are poisoning soil and water and fouling air inside buildings.

Cleaning up this chemical is a nightmare — a lesson in the limits of repairing environmental harm. The best that Colorado health enforcers and responsible parties have been able to do is keep the PCE they know about from reaching people…

Dry cleaners are found in most communities nationwide. But the PCE problem hasn’t been as visible as the large-scale industrial disasters that mobilize advocacy groups. Unlike oil rig ruptures and chemical spills into rivers, PCE plumes remain hidden.

They formed because, in the past, PCE legally could be flushed into sewers, dumped out backdoors, emptied down alleys. Dry cleaners didn’t grasp the potential cumulative impact of day-to-day drips on their floors.

PCE is heavy, sinking through soil and groundwater to form pools that can remain volatile for decades and do not readily break down.

Health authorities say they worry most about sites where PCE levels in soil and groundwater are so high that vapors rise up and contaminate buildings.

More water pollution coverage here.

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