By Taylor Sisk
CARRBORO â€“ The state Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) is investigating effects on homes and businesses near the intersection of Main and Weaver streets of a chemical apparently dumped by a now-defunct dry-cleaning business.
The chemical, perchloroethylene, or PERC, a colorless, nonflammable liquid commonly used in the dry-cleaning business, is a potential cancer-causing agent.
According to a statement released by the Town of Carrboro, the contaminant is easily vaporized and can migrate into buildings. One home on nearby Elm Street was found to have unacceptable vapor levels of the substance, and DENR officials say the department is taking steps to counteract any health risks that might result from those levels.
DENR public information officer Cathy Akroyd said on Tuesday that the department has received results from indoor air sampling conducted last week at two other Elm Street residences, an adjacent restaurant and the site of the former dry-cleaning business at 408 W. Weaver St.
â€œAll are considered safe and had either no contaminants or were well within acceptable limits from a human health standpoint,â€ said Akroyd.
â€œOur contractor is developing a work plan for the next scope of investigative work, which involves the collection of soil gas and groundwater data,â€ Akroyd said. The investigation will include indoor air sampling at the affected Elm Street residence and a vacant house next door, but at no other locations.
The building at 408 W. Weaver St. was the location of MEM One-Hour Martinizing in the early 1970s, and is now the site of Summerwinds Pools & Spas. DENR discovered evidence of PERC at the CITGO station at the corner of Main and Weaver streets in 2009 and traced it back to the former dry-cleaning location. At the time the business was in operation, such chemicals were commonly disposed of with little or no knowledge of the health risks they posed.
According to the townâ€™s statement, its staff has been in communication with DENRâ€™s Dry Cleaning Solvent Clean-up Act team and staff from the Orange County Health Department. DENRâ€™s Division of Waste Management is coordinating the investigation and cleanup. DENR has been conducting statewide testing for PERC and similar contaminants.
Akroyd said on Tuesday that no further indoor air testing is planned at this point because â€œwe do not have any data which suggests that there is a vapor intrusion risk at any other structures in the area.â€
DENR will, however, be collecting soil data from the immediate vicinity.
â€œAt this time, there is no indication of any threats related to this or of any precautions that need to be taken,” Akroyd said.
The time and location of a public-information session on the investigation and cleanup will shortly be announced by the Division of Waste Management.