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Dry cleaners in Española and BP oil in Gulf teach prevention

By John Bartlit

The term “Superfund site” makes few of us think first of a dry cleaners. Yet nationwide, plain old dry cleaning fluid is a common and costly threat to groundwater, including by the Rio Grande 20 miles north of Los Alamos.

  This is the story of that problem and progress made on it.  

   The Norge Town laundromat and dry cleaning facility began business in Española at 113 North Railroad Avenue in 1970. By 1989, dry cleaning fluid, called “perc” in the trade, showed up in two of Española’s city wells, the Jemez and Bond Wells, which permanently ended their use as drinking water supplies.

    The releases were stopped. But the plume of solvents kept creeping through the ground, moving more than three fourths of a mile south toward more supply wells for Española and the Santa Clara Pueblo.

   By 2001, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency declared it the “North Railroad Avenue Plume Superfund Site.” The EPA began plans to remove enough bad stuff from the ground and aquifer to stop the spreading hazard.

    What does it take to clean up bad chemicals that have made their way to water supplies far under ground? The range of options, at a cost, may surprise you.

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