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U.S. Sues Dry Cleaners to Enforce EPA Orders

Release Date: 02/23/2004
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(#04026) New York, N.Y. -- The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and United States Attorney's office for the Southern District of New York announced today that they have filed a complaint against Splendid Enterprises Limited of New York City for failing to pay a penalty assessed by an EPA Administrative Law Judge for hazardous waste violations. The government is seeking $37, 000 from the company, which does business as Splendid Cleaners and is also known as Splendid Clothing Care Center.

"Dry cleaners need to follow hazardous waste regulations because it is important for the health and safety of their neighbors and the environment," said Jane M. Kenny, EPA Regional Administrator."We want dry cleaners to comply and we are ready to help, all they need to do is ask. Splendid not only refused our help, but then ignored an EPA order, and now we are suing them to force them to comply."

Splendid Enterprises has its primary dry-cleaning operation at 1287 First Avenue, and nine drop-off locations throughout Manhattan. In addition, they previously operated a dry-cleaning operation at 636 11th Avenue, where violations were discovered during an August 2000 EPA inspection.. Inspectors found waste primarily contaminated with tetrachloroethylene ("perc"). Splendid did not meet the protective management requirements needed to store this waste. Splendid had not properly labeled, stored, inspected or otherwise managed the waste. In addition, they did not meet emergency planning requirements.

Perc is a suspected carcinogen that can also cause short-term health effects. Under the law, drycleaners are required to safely manage their hazardous waste, keep records and follow manufacturers' instructions for their cleaning equipment.

Because the majority of dry cleaners are small businesses (under 100 employees) and may require extra guidance, EPA developed and conducts a compliance assistance program. The Agency has held workshops, handed out multi-lingual plain-language literature to dry cleaner operators and offered temporary relief for all owners who requested an assistance visit. Although many site visits have occurred, hundreds more businesses have not taken advantage of the free environmental assistance, which also includes the possibility of penalty waivers.