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Bill introduced to phase out toxic dry cleaning solvent in Michigan

Lester Graham
Michigan Radio
A dry cleaning solvent that's been used for decade is polluting the sites of some dry cleaners and is a health hazard.

Bipartisan legislation has been introduced that would phase out a toxic chemical used in dry cleaning.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency says perchloroethylene — commonly called PERC — causes health effects including neurological damage, and reproductive harm. The EPA says it's likely to cause cancer. The solvent is released into the air, ground water, and soil at some cleaning sites.

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State of Michigan
State Representative Julie Rogers (D-Kalamazoo) has introduced legislation to phase out a toxic dry cleaning solvent.

State Representative Julie Rogers’ (D-Kalamazoo) bill (HB 6511), filed last week, would phase out the use of PERC in six years.

It would first give dry cleaners five years to prepare for the phase out. At that point the manufacture of the chemical in Michigan would be banned. Six months later, the sale of PERC would be banned. Then, six months after that the use would be banned.

Alternative non-toxic methods are available now.

Dry cleaners are not thrilled about the phase out because it might mean buying new equipment. Rogers says that’s why she’s calling for some financial help for dry cleaners.

“If you can imagine if you are a business owner, you know, to just drop some legislation and say this is the new law of the land overnight, it can be pretty, pretty difficult from a financial perspective,” she said.

Rogers would like to see the Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy implement some kind of cost-sharing arrangement or a buyback program to incentivize businesses to get rid of their existing PERC chemicals.

Rogers said financial incentives now are cheaper than taxpayers paying to clean up more PERC contaminated sites.

She said as a county commissioner, she saw too many instances where government could only react to the pollution by expensive cleanups. She said she wants to stop the problem before it happens, "because it actually is a more of a precaution and trying to get ahead of it instead of spending money on all this environmental cleanup of pollution, it's trying to prevent the pollution.”

Rogers said some cleanups run into hundreds of thousands of dollars and taxpayers have to bear that cost.

Rogers’ bill is cosponsored by Republican Gary Howell who is the Chair of the House Natural Resources and Outdoor Recreation Committee.

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Lester Graham
Michigan Radio

Lester Graham reports for The Environment Report. He has reported on public policy, politics, and issues regarding race and gender inequity. He was previously with The Environment Report at Michigan Radio from 1998-2010.
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