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EPA Orders Manhattan Dry Cleaner to Clean Up Its Act; Splendid Enterprises Subject to $34,250 Penalty for Hazardous Waste Violations

Release Date: 01/14/2003
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(#03002) New York, N.Y. -- The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has ordered Splendid Enterprises Limited, also known as Splendid Cleaners and Splendid Clothing Care (Splendid), of New York City to come into compliance with state and federal regulations that ensure the proper handling of hazardous waste. Splendid must also pay a $34,250 penalty for improperly using, storing and disposing of hazardous wastes of tetrachloroethylene, commonly referred to as "perc." Splendid is a large commercial dry cleaner located in midtown Manhattan with approximately ten additional customer pickup and dropoff locations throughout the borough.

"EPA's investigation revealed that Splendid threatened the health of employees, local residents and the surrounding environment by improperly handling perc," said EPA Regional Administrator Jane Kenny. " EPA has been working with area dry cleaners to help them come into compliance with these regulations. We will continue to assist those who seek our help but we will also continue with the same determination to inspect and fine dry cleaners who violate these regulations."

Administrative Law Judge Barbara A. Gunning, in her decision on the case, found the company to be in violation of the law and set the penalty at $34,250, the level EPA prosecutors had requested. Judge Gunning stated that the testimony "amply supports the EPA's characterizations of the seriousness of the violations as measured by the potential for human and environmental harm resulting from the violations."

EPA has an ongoing effort to protect human health and the environment at dry cleaning establishments and the surrounding communities. Dry cleaners are required to adopt procedures that are in compliance with the state and federal regulations that assure proper "cradle to grave" handling of hazardous wastes.

Perc is suspected of causing cancer in humans, is considered toxic, and can cause dizziness, nausea, and headaches when either inhaled or absorbed through the skin.

When EPA inspected Splendid's facility in August 2000, numerous hazardous waste violations were found. They had not properly handled perc sludge, perc lint waste and perc wastewater. EPA issued a complaint saying that Splendid did not have the proper permits for storing hazardous waste; failed to keep hazardous waste storage containers closed; did not conduct required weekly inspections where hazardous wastes were stored; failed to properly handle and ship hazardous waste; and, did not alert nearby emergency response teams and hospitals about the wastes it handled and the possible dangers resulting from improper releases. The complaint also cited Splendid for improperly disposing of used flourescent bulbs without determining whether they were a hazardous waste because of the level of mercury. The complaint required Splendid to come into compliance immediately or appear in court to contest the violations. When Splendid did not appear at a hearing to answer the charges in May 2002, Splendid was found to be in default and lost the opportunity to contest the charges.

To help the dry cleaning industry better comply with environmental regulations, EPA has, since 1996, offered compliance assistance to over 400 dry cleaners in the New York City area and New Jersey. EPA provided multilingual literature about environmental regulations, performed compliance reviews of facility operations, provided on-site compliance assistance with temporary amnesty from penalties, and issued non-penalty Notices of Violations that required companies to make improvements. Because there has not been a significant increase in compliance by dry cleaners in response to EPA's efforts, the Agency has shifted its focus to inspections and formal enforcement proceedings. Dry cleaners found to be in violation of hazardous waste violations now face monetary penalties and orders to immediately improve environmental conditions. Since January 2000, the Agency has issued complaints against dry cleaners in New York and New Jersey seeking a total of more than $500,000 in penalties. It is in the best interest of dry cleaners, however, to contact EPA for compliance assistance before enforcement actions are taken. EPA's Dry Cleaning Compliance Assistance number is (212) 637- 4050.