East Side Plume – Dangerous Chemicals Found in our Neighborhood

East Side Plume – Dangerous Chemicals Found in our Neighborhood

Written by East Central

Topics: Douglas Neighborhood, East Side Plume, Home, What's Hot?

The 700 South & 1600 East PCE Plume site is located on the east side bench in Salt Lake City, Utah. The plume is located generally within the area bounded by 500 South and Michigan Avenue and between Guardsman Way and 1100 East. PCE contamination was first detected in this area in the 1990s during routine sampling of the Mount Olivet Cemetery irrigation well. This detection led to the discovery of the 700 South 1600 East PCE Plume site (formerly known as the Mount Olivet Cemetery Plume) and several subsequent investigations. Groundwater concentrations in monitoring wells have reached as high as 320 μg/L (parts per billion) in some areas of the plume. The national drinking water standard for PCE is 5.0 μg/L. A 2004 site investigation detected PCE in a Salt Lake City municipal drinking water well at a concentration of 2.23 μg/L. There is some evidence suggesting that PCE levels may continue to increase in this well over time. As a precautionary measure, Salt Lake City Public Utilities has removed the well from service.

In late June, Mayor Ralph Becker, the Salt Lake Valley Health Department and the Utah Department of Environmental Quality issued formal support for a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) proposal to list a contaminated site in Salt Lake City on the agency’s National Priorities List. Mayor Becker is seeking input from residents on this issue. What is your position on the proposed listing of the 700 South 1600 East PCE plume on the EPA’s National Priorities List?


In August 2010, Salt Lake City discovered low levels of the chemical perchloroethene, or PCE, in surface water springs located between 800 South and 1000 South, and between 1300 East and 1100 East.  While Salt Lake City’s public drinking water supply is not connected to or affected by these springs, the Utah Department of Environmental Quality (UDEQ) was immediately engaged to conduct an investigation to identify the source of the contamination and potential risks to the community.

The EPA and UDEQ published a report of their findings in May 2012.  In summary, the report confirmed the presence of PCE in surface water springs, and concluded that it is likely connected to a previously identified PCE groundwater plume located more than 100 feet below ground surface near 700 South and 1600 East. This plume was originally discovered in the 1990s when PCE was discovered in an irrigation well at Mount Olivet Cemetery.

Previous UDEQ and EPA investigations indicated that while PCE was found in deep groundwater, no PCE was detected in surface water springs in the city. At that time there did not appear to be any means for people in the community to come in contact with PCE in the relatively deep groundwater.  As a precaution, Salt Lake City removed its drinking water well in the vicinity of this PCE plume from service.


The full extent of the 700 South 1600 East PCE plume is still unknown, but with the recent discovery of the contaminated springs, the site appears to cover approximately 300 acres.  Left uncontrolled, it now appears the PCE plume could continue to migrate.  For these reasons, Salt Lake City, the Salt Lake Valley Health Department, and the Utah Department of Environmental Quality believe that conditions have changed significantly to warrant a more rigorous investigation defining the extent of the PCE plume and its risks to human health and the environment, followed by appropriate remedial action and mitigation.

State and local environmental health agencies do not have funding sources or programs to address the contaminated plume and the potential health and economic impacts the plume may have on our community.  Therefore, the City is supporting EPA’s proposed listing of the 700 South 1600 East PCE Plume on the National Priorities List (NPL) in order to facilitate assessment and cleanup of the plume.  Salt Lake City, the Salt Lake Valley Health Department and the State Department of Environmental Quality have all expressed preliminary support for the proposal to include the 700 South 1600 East PCE Plume on the NPL, pending input from the community during the public comment period.  EPA proposed listing the 700 South 1600 East PCE Plume in the September 18, 2012 Federal Register.  EPA is holding an official public comment period from September 18 to November 13, 2012 so that members of the community and other affected parties can submit comments related to the proposed NPL listing.


Both EPA and Salt Lake City would like your input on the proposed listing. Please note that EPA will only consider comments submitted directly to EPA during the public comment period.  Comments submitted to the City will shape the opinions and responses of your local elected officials, but will NOT be forwarded to EPA for consideration.

There are four ways you can let us know how you feel about the PCE contamination discovered in Salt Lake City and the proposed strategy for assessing and mitigating the plume through the National Priorities List (NPL) process:

1)      Provide your comments to Salt Lake City (not EPA) in this “Open City Hall” discussion forum;

2)      Email or mail your comments to Mayor Becker, mayor@slcgov.com ;

3)      Email or mail your City Council Member;

4)      Submit your official comments to EPA during the public comment period, September 18 through November 13, 2012 by going to www.regulations.gov and searching for FDMS Docket #EPA-HQ-SFUND-2012-0647 or sending written comments ( postmarked no later than November 13, 2012) identified by FDMS Docket # EPA-HQ-SFUND-2012-0647, and addressed to:

Docket Coordinator, Headquarters
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
CERCLA Docket Office (Mail Code 5305T)
1200 Pennsylvania Avenue NW
Washington, DC 20460

For more information, contact Renee Zollinger, Salt Lake City Environmental Program Manager, (801) 535-7215 or Renee.Zollinger@slcgov.com .



If EPA receives positive support from the community during the public comment period, a final NPL determination may be decided in April 2013.  If the 700 South 1600 East PCE Plume is determined to be an NPL site, EPA will move forward immediately to establish tight timeframes for performing a complete remedial investigation of the plume and a feasibility study to evaluate potential cleanup options.


More information on the PCE Plume and proposed NPL listing is available at the website below, which includes the EPA and UDEQ report and a summary of the findings and answers to frequently asked questions.


Records are also available (in hard copy) at the following locations:

Salt Lake City Library, main branch
210 E. 400 South, level 3
Salt Lake City, UT 84111
U.S. EPA, Region 8
Superfund Records Center
1595 Wynkoop Street
Denver, CO 80202

A copy of Mayor Becker’s letter of support to the Utah Department of Environmental Quality can be viewed via the link, below.



For more info, FAQ’s, and contacts: click here

Also, check out these documents that give even more information about the risks involved.

PERC & Dry Cleaning

Dry Cleaning

Pest Management | Electromagnetic | Water
Pesticide – BC Link | Dry Cleaning | Protect Your Health

“The exposure of people living or working close to operating dry cleaning facilities is a major public health concern.”

-New York State Department of Health

What is the health concern all about?

Routinely, dry cleaning establishments use PERC, or perchloroethylene, which is a toxic solvent that removes stains form clothes. PERC is also used by auto repair shops and in other industries to remove grease and oil from tools.

Have any studies been done on PERC’s possible health effects?

A Boston University study of several Massachusetts communities that were exposed to PERC through contaminated drinking water revealed a two to eight fold increased risk of leukemia, depending upon the degree of exposure. The study also found a four-fold increase risk of bladder cancer, confirming and strengthening many previous occupational studies linking PERC exposure to bladder cancer. PERC was the sole contaminant found in the drinking water supply in any amount that could account for the observed effects.

A study by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health and the National Institute of Environmental Safety and Health in the U.S. found a seven-fold increase between the risk of cancer of the esophagus and PERC. The study involved more that 600 dry cleaning workers with five or more years of experience in the industry.

The Environmental Protection Agency lists vinyl chloride, into which PERC ultimately degrades, as a known or probable human carcinogen. Other health effects associated with exposure to PERC are memory impairment, liver and kidney damage, endocrine disruption, menstrual disorders, infertility, and miscarriages.

The New York State Department of Heath has calculated that from 58 to 600 excess cancer cases per million occur among infants exposed to PERC for more than one year via contaminated breast milk.

How are we exposed?

When it is exposed to air, PERC is released into the environment.

Almost half of all Americans rely on groundwater for their drinking water, yet federal surveys have determined that more than 26.1 percent of U.S. groundwater supplies are contaminated with PERC, with concentration reaching a maximum of 1500 parts per billion. Only five PPB is the standard under the Safe Drinking Water Act.

When the plastic is removed from the dry cleaning clothes we take home, PERC is released.

When used in dry cleaning establishments that are located next to retail food operations, PERC migrates and has been found in fatty foods. According to the above mentioned report, tests have shown that dry cleaned clothing placed in a closed car next to a bag of groceries can contaminate food in less than one hour.

How does PERC get into our groundwater?

When discarded into the sewer system, PERC settles to the bottom of the sewer line and migrates through pipes into the soil and aquifers. When there are leaks or defects in the sewer systems, PERC seeps into ground water supplies.

Historically, dry cleaners and other fabric processors were allowed to use dry wells and sewer systems to dispose of leftover PERC, which caused a direct source of groundwater contamination.

Today, they typically generate one to two gallons of PERC – contaminated water per day, depending upon the type of control used.

What can I do to protect myself?

Ask your dry cleaner to use wet cleaning for clothes of natural fibers. Some dry cleaners use wet cleaning for all clothes!

Be sure your dry cleaner has a certified waste hauler. There is usually a decal in the window showing the name of the firm that removes PERC and contaminated wastewater.

Air your dry-cleaned clothing outside – never near children or food allowing several hours for the PERC to dissipate.

PERC & Daughters

PERC Tetrachloroethene Pathway Map

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