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EPA Adds Former Custom Cleaners in Memphis, TN to National Priorities List to Clean Up Contamination

Contact Information: 
Jason McDonald (
404-562-9203, 404-562-8400

ATLANTA (July 31, 2017) — The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is adding the Former Custom Cleaners in Memphis, Tennessee along with six other sites to the Superfund program’s National Priorities List (NPL). Four additional hazardous waste sites have been proposed for addition to the list.  

Superfund, which Congress established in 1980, investigates and cleans up the nation’s most complex, uncontrolled or abandoned hazardous waste sites and converts them into community resources. 

The Superfund program is a cornerstone of the work that the EPA performs for citizens and communities across the country. 

The Superfund law directs EPA to update the NPL annually. Only sites added to the NPL are eligible to receive federal funding for long-term permanent cleanup.

EPA adds sites to the NPL when mismanagement of contamination threatens human health and the environment. EPA typically initiates Superfund involvement at a site because states, tribes or citizens ask for the agency’s help. The agency may also find contamination during its own investigations.

“My goal as Administrator is to restore the Superfund program to its rightful place at the center of the agency’s core mission. Today, we are adding sites to the Superfund National Priorities List to ensure they are cleaned up for the benefit of these communities,” said EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt, “When we clean up these sites, we make communities healthier places to live and clear the way for development and increased economic activity.”

“We are pleased for the citizens of Memphis and thankful to the Environmental Protection Agency for adding the former Custom Cleaners site to the National Priorities List,” said Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation Commissioner Bob Martineau.  “We are looking forward to the permanent environmental remediation of the site as well as the potential economic development opportunities that may result.”

The Former Custom Cleaners Site is a former dry cleaner which operated from about 1950 until the mid-1990s. The Site is a commercially zoned property in a residential and commercial area of east Memphis. Past operations have impacted subsurface soils and groundwater with the solvent perchloroethylene (PCE). While there has been no impact to date, there is potential for the PCE contaminated groundwater to impact the municipal drinking water wells within the Memphis Light, Gas and Water (MLGW) Sheahan Well Field, due to the Site’s close proximity.

Superfund addresses both older and newer sites. At least four of the 11 sites EPA is adding or proposing today were in operation within the last two decades. The sites listed today have contamination from a variety of sources, including manufacturing, wood treatment and aircraft maintenance.

Superfund sites can threaten the health of entire communities. Some groups of people, such as children, pregnant women and the elderly, may be at particular risk. Superfund cleans up or isolates contamination, keeping it away from people and the environment. 

Superfund cleanups benefit the health of those who live on or near Superfund sites. Academic research has shown these cleanups reduce birth defects close to a site by as much as 25 percent. Similarly, cleanups involving lead-contaminated soil have contributed to documented reductions in children’s blood-lead levels.

When EPA cleans up a site or a portion of a site, the site is available for beneficial uses. More than 850 Superfund sites nationwide have some type of actual or planned reuse underway.

Cleanups also increase tax revenue and create jobs during and after cleanup. EPA reviewed 458 Superfund sites supporting use or reuse activities. The agency found at the end of fiscal year 2016 that these sites had approximately 4,700 businesses with 131,000 employees and annual sales of more than $34 billion.

Today’s NPL update follows the announcement of the Superfund Task Force recommendations to improve the Superfund program.

The task force’s recommendations focused on five overarching goals: expediting cleanup and remediation, reinvigorating cleanup and reuse efforts by potentially responsible parties, encouraging private investment to facilitate cleanup and reuse, promoting redevelopment and community revitalization and engaging with partners and stakeholders.

Work to prioritize and reinvigorate the program by the task force has been initiated and will be ongoing into the future.

The Superfund Task Force Recommendations can be viewed at

For Federal Register notices and supporting documents for the final and proposed sites:

For information about Superfund and the NPL: