Memphis cleaners site added to EPA Superfund list

The former Custom Cleaners at 3517 Southern Ave. has been added to the EPA's list of Superfund sites. (Google photo)

WASHINGTON — The Environmental Protection Agency added seven hazardous waste sites across the country to the Superfund program’s National Priorities List and one of them is right here in Memphis.

The Former Custom Cleaners, which stood until recently at 3517 Southern Avenue, used a chemical known as  tetrachloroethylene (PCE) to clean their customers’ clothes for more than 45 years.

According to a report from the EPA, the chemical leaked into the on-site monitoring well and nearby soil.

Authorities are concerned 22 nearby wells in the Sheahan Well Field could also become contaminated.

While PCE is normally found in the environment, increased contact with the chemical can cause health issues such as skin, nose and throat irritation, nausea, headaches, dizziness, vision problems, trouble speaking and walking, abnormal heartbeat, and kidney and liver damage.

The American Cancer Society noted scientists also believe the chemical can cause some forms of cancer.

A cleanup of this magnitude will not only have the potential to positively impact a person’s health, but also the local economy as well.

Established in 1980, the agency’s Superfund program helps restore “the nation’s most complex, uncontrolled or abandoned hazardous waste sites and converts them into community resources.”

Sites listed on the NPL are also eligible for federal aid as they work to cleanup the mess.

In 2016, there were 458 Superfund sites across the nation working with more than 4,700 businesses and 131,000 employees during the cleanup.

After everything was said and done, many of the sites were reused, pumping money back into the city.