EPA designates former dry cleaner as ‘Superfund’ site

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MEMPHIS, Tenn. — The Environmental Protection Agency just announced that the site of the former Custom Cleaners on Southern is officially a "Superfund" site.

They say it's contaminated with a chemical commonly called PCE. Dry cleaners use it to clean clothes. Some doctors say this chemical causes cancer, organ failure and other health issues.

The state and EPA have also expressed concerns about possible well-water contamination.

That news doesn't sit well with people in the area.

"We were concerned for sure. Because the water here in Memphis is a great asset, as everybody knows. And we don't want anything to happen to the water."

Joe Remmers is in the rug cleaning and repair business. His shop on Minor Street is a stone's throw from the latest EPA Superfund site, a site linked to the solvent perchloroethylene, or PCE.

Monday, crews were taking more soil samples on the property at 3517 Southern Ave., where Custom Cleaners operated from 1950 until the mid-1990s. Tests conducted by the State of Tennessee and the EPA showed elevated levels of PCE have "impacted subsurface soil and groundwater."

The site is less than a mile from MLGW's Sheahan water pumping station.

Officials say while there has been no impact to date, "there is potential for PCE-contaminated groundwater to impact the municipal drinking water wells at Sheahan."

The investigation into problems at the Custom Cleaners site began in 2013.

In 2016 the EPA removed the building, concrete slab and large amount of dirt showing the highest levels of PCE.

What's happening across the street from his business has Remmers concerned, but he says the EPA has at least kept him informed what the problem is and how serious it could ultimately be.

"To come to our small business and be transparent and let us know everything they are going to do before they do it. It was really reassuring...we knew they were going to take care of it," said Remmers, owner of J. Remmers Rug Cleaning.

MLGW released a statement saying, they are "aware of the EPA's work here in Memphis as the former Custom Cleaners site. We are working with the EPA to provide them with information as they evaluate the site."

"MLGW has tested all 15 wells at Sheahan Pumping Station and found no evidence of contamination from the Customs Cleaners site in our drinking water."

The EPA is holding a series of town hall meetings to address questions about the Superfund site cleanup.

The meetings will be this Thursday at the old Highland Branch Library at the corner of Highland and Midland from 9 a.m. to noon and from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m.

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