The Daily Tar Heel

Serving the students and the University community since 1893

Wednesday December 7th

Solvent poses a threat to Carrboro

Residents fear long-term risks

The 40-year-old remains of a dry cleaning company are pushing UNC student Emily Rude out of her home.

Carrboro issued two press releases last week stating that an investigation into dry cleaning solvent contamination near 408 W. Weaver St. is underway.

The building, which is now occupied by Summerwind Pools and Spas, housed dry cleaning company MEM One-Hour Martinizing during the 1970s.

Rude, who lives directly behind the building, said she first learned of the situation about a month ago when the N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources began testing the area.

Rude said department officials installed an air quality tester in her home and found unacceptable levels of contamination.

“It’s a long-term risk exposure, and I don’t want to heighten my risk,” she said. “Who knows how long it’ll take to get the problem fixed?”

Rude and her son are in the process of moving out of the home.

The contamination was first discovered in 2009 when state officials found the dry cleaning solvent Perchloroethylene in a test well at another location.

The owners of the Summerwind building volunteered for testing after the state department’s findings, department spokeswoman Cathy Akroyd wrote in an email.

“This was found to have migrated from the former dry cleaning site at 408 W. Weaver St.,” Akroyd wrote.

Gillings School of Global Public Health professor Ivan Rusyn said some commonly used organic solvents have been linked to several types of diseases and cancer.

Perchloroethylene in particular has been classified by the EPA as likely to cause cancer, he said.

“This particular incident is one of many in the state of North Carolina,” he said. “They have, to my knowledge, a couple of hundred where there is ground water and soil contamination with chlorinated solvents.”

Rusyn, whose lab is studying chlorinated solvents, said the contamination could have occurred after cleaning chemicals were disposed of in an inappropriate container or poured down the drain.

He said human exposure to these chemicals can occur through inhalation or through drinking contaminated water.

Rusyn said responses to exposure of these solvents are classified into two types. Acute responses can be seen soon after exposure and include dizziness or headaches. Long-term responses occur over years or decades and can include kidney tumors and leukemia.

“We’re living in the chemical world,” he said. “If N.C. DENR finds that environmental samples collected at the Carrboro site do exceed safety standards, they have to decide what to do next and what precautions to take.”

Rusyn said further testing will have to occur before the state can determine the severity of the contamination.

“Then people will have to exercise their own judgments as to what is best for them,” he said. “The property owners are going to be in the hardest predicament since this may influence the property values.”

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