Frequently, owners and occupiers of dry cleaning businesses, or those who purchase a building currently or formerly used as a dry cleaning business, will have liability for cleaning up contamination caused by PERC/PCE. PERC/PCE is a colorless liquid that was used for years in dry cleaning and is considered toxic but will be phased out in California by 2023.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has classified PCE as a likely carcinogen to humans. As a result, there are several things that owners of a dry cleaning business or purchasers of one should know about contamination liability.
What dry cleaners need to know about contamination liability
To begin with, it is a good idea to understand what the potential clean-up costs associated with the contamination will be. Because the costs can include potential groundwater cleanup, they can range from tens of thousands of dollars to millions of dollars. The potential average for cleanup is $500,000. An environmental cleanup consulting firm may be able to provide a more definitive cleanup cost.
Because the cleanup costs can be significant, it may be necessary to try to locate former property owners or operators of the property or business who may also be liable for the cleanup and cleanup costs, which means you may want to look into the history of the ownership of the property.
It may be possible to also seek out insurance policies that could be applicable. Environmental insurance policies may be available that provide coverage for future release, undiscovered contamination, third-party liability and protection for cleanup cost overruns.
If you are considering operating a dry cleaning business or purchasing a business that was formerly a dry cleaning business, it may be a lifelong dream for you to be a small business owner. For that reason, you should be familiar with potential liability for contamination and what options may be available to help you address it so you can pursue your dream while legally being protected from dry cleaning liability.