News – As of January 1, 2021, tetrachloroethene (PCE or PERC) dry cleaning machines are no longer allowed with the South Coast Air Quality Management District (SCAQMD) Jurisdiction.
Why? – SCAQMD Rule 1421 (1994) specified control procedures and timing of phase-out for PCE use in dry cleaning machines in order to meet California Airborne Toxic Control Measure (ATCM) and National Emission Standard for Hazardous Air Pollution (NESHAP) requirements.
Concerns Regarding PCE Use in Dry Cleaning – There were more than 21,000 dry-cleaning machines in the U.S. according to the Census Bureau in 2015. PCE has been used in these machines and as a spot remover in most of these operations. Many of these dry-cleaning facilities are located in strip malls and near residential properties. An example of PCE presence and emissions at a typical dry cleaner is provided as follows:
Source: Schnapf, Larry. 2014, November. Dry Cleaners: The Environmental Scourge of Commercial Real Property.
According to the EPA, exposure to PCE can impact your workers, business personnel, nearby residents and the environment when released to air, water, land or groundwater. Health effects of PCE include:
- Skin, eye and respiratory irritation.
- Nervous system effects such as headaches, dizziness and impaired coordination.
- Liver and kidney damage.
- Likely human carcinogen.
Poor management practices have resulted in numerous documented releases of PCE to the environment from dry-cleaning facilities. A Federal and State Maximum Contaminant Level (MCL) of 5.0 micrograms per liter (ug/l) has been established for PCE in groundwater, and restrictive screening criteria have also been established for soil, soil gas, and ambient air. As a result of these regulations, thousands of significant and costly investigation and cleanup programs are currently underway in association with PCE releases from historical dry-cleaning operations and the protection of groundwater resources.
What is Specifically Required? – Per Rule 1421, all PCE dry cleaning systems within SCAQMD jurisdiction must be physically removed or disconnected from utilities (electric, steam liners) and all PCE must be drained from the machine tanks. In addition, the existing SCAQMD permit application needs to be terminated and a new permit for a dry-cleaning machine without PCE needs to be obtained.
What Options do Dry Cleaners Have? – There are several commercially-available alternatives to PCE for dry-cleaning (both for non-PCE utilizing machines and for spot cleaning). In addition, the SCAQMD is offering grant money to dry cleaners to switch over to machines that do not utilize PCE. As of October 2020, there was still a limited amount of grant money available. For more information on the SCAQMD grant program, go to:
What Should Property Owners that Lease to Dry Cleaners Do? In many cases, the dry-cleaning operations are not substantial enough to pay for subsurface investigations and cleanups. As such, the owners of the property often become liable for the releases and end up paying for lengthy and costly investigation and cleanup programs. Property owners who lease land to dry cleaners need to take action to ensure that the dry-cleaning operations are in compliance and that releases have not occurred. These actions should include a facility audit to document the storage, handling, and disposal practices implemented by dry-cleaning tenants. In addition, the process by which the tenants are decommissioning or removing their PCE dry-cleaning machine should be monitored, in order to ensure that the waste material is being properly disposed of and that the tenants are in compliance with SCAQMD requirements.
If you should have additional questions regarding properties with PCE dry-cleaning equipment, please do not hesitate to contact us at (877) 232-4620.
 USEPA. 2019, February. Dry-Cleaning Sector Regulatory Update.