When Elegant Floors opened its doors on Shelburne Road in 2011, what lay below the foundation was unknown to owner Sean Ryan.
After decades of ownership by the now bankrupt Jason’s Dry Cleaning, the property was saturated with perchloroethylene – called PCE for short – and the clean-up bill – expected to total $600,000 — has fallen to Ryan.
Ryan initially bought the property from a private seller, skipping a detailed environmental inspection. Two years later, while re-financing the property through a bank, Ryan was required to go through environmental inspection steps for loan approval.
The building, located at 2785 Shelburne Road, housed one of several Jason’s Dry Cleaning sites from 1996 to 2000. Dry-cleaning businesses are known to use PCE – a chemical linked to increased risks of cancer and birth defects — so it was not a huge surprise when an inspection discovered it.
Jason’s was “just pouring the chemicals right down the drain,” Ryan said.
According to Michael Smith a hazardous site manager at the Vermont Department of Environmental Conservation, 400 plus sites across the state are polluted by PCE.
The chemical was discovered on Ryan’s property in March 2013. Though the amount was significant, Smith said, it was not the worst contamination in the state.
It took four and a half years for Ryan to get necessary approvals from the DEC to start the cleanup. Smith cited the back and forth between Ryan and state officials, insurance issues, switches in environmental contractors and other issues for the delay.
The plan called for digging up the concrete floors to get to the contaminated soils and pipes. Smith said two dump truck loads of hazardous materials have been shipped to a waste facility in Canada. Residual contamination from soil vapors will be dealt with by a vapor treatment system. The DEC will continue to monitor the site, Smith said.
Cleaning and re-construction began in January and is expected to be finished in the next few weeks. Ryan said 75 percent of the cost will be covered by insurance.
While the remediation work is being done, Ryan has moved his flooring retail business to a warehouse on Avenue D in Williston. He said he hopes to be able to move back and re-open at the Shelburne location by April 1.
Ryan said the worst part of the ordeal was the lack of accountability for the previous owners. Jason’s Dry Cleaning. The company’s Shelburne Commons site also is on the list, Ryan said. “Wherever they were, had to be cleaned up.”