Conference Call Minutes from January 6, 1999

Dry Cleaners Remediation Project Conference Call

Dry Cleaners Remediation Project
Conference Call

January 6, 1999

State Representatives

Tim Steele Arizona
Bill Burns and Bill Linn Florida
John Kelley Illinois
Leo Henning Kansas
Dale Trippler and Kären Kromar Minnesota
Jack Butler and Bruce Nicholson North Carolina
Dick DeZeeuw Oregon
Steve Goins Tennessee
Robin Schmidt Wisconsin

Other conference call participants included Richard Steimle from the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA's) Technology Innovation Office (TIO), Carolyn Perroni from Environmental Management Support, Inc. (EMS), and Christine Hartnett from Eastern Research Group, Inc. (ERG).

Opening Remarks
Richard Steimle welcomed participants to the fifth Dry Cleaners Remediation Project conference call and provided a brief overview of the call's agenda. Carolyn Perroni informed the group that the URL for the Dry Cleaners Remediation Project Web page has been changed. The new address is http://clu-in.org/programs/dryclean.

Face-to-Face Meeting
Richard Steimle, EPA, TIO
Steimle noted that the Dry Cleaners Remediation Project team is scheduled to meet on April 13, 1999, at the Holiday Inn Capital in Washington, D.C. Steimle said travel expenses (i.e., lodging, food, and airfare) will be paid for by the National Ground-Water Association. He said there is a chance that monies will not be available in time for the meeting. If this is the case, the meeting will be postponed. Participants said they need about 3 to 4 weeks advance notice to obtain permission to attend out-of-state conferences.

Steimle said that EMS and ERG will create an agenda for the meeting, and he encouraged participants to provide input on topics that they would like covered. At this point, Steimle said, he envisions focusing the first day of the meeting on management issues and group organization. Ideally, he would like to incorporate some workgroup time so that something tangible, such as an organizational chart, can be produced.

Steimle said that 2 to 3 days of training sessions can be attached to the meeting if participants decide courses would be useful. He added that any training sessions would be presented by the National Ground-Water Association. Steimle said that the Association offers a list of 50 courses, but that the Association can modify its available training courses or create new courses to meet the specific needs of the Dry Cleaners Remediation Project group. Steimle agreed to distribute a list of available training topics, and he encouraged participants to give him feedback on which courses, if any, would be most useful. He stressed that the training would provide information on remedial and technical issues rather than management issues. The latter, he said, will likely be covered during the first day of the meeting.

Discussion on Group Goals and Organization
Steimle noted that the Dry Cleaners Remediation Project team has effectively exchanged information for several months. He suggested that the team think about what it hopes to accomplish in the future. He said it could remain as an informal group, meeting periodically to exchange information, or it could create a more formalized unit. He asked participants to think about whether they want to develop concrete agendas and goals, act as a lobbying group, influence research, or develop guidance. Once they define their goals, Steimle said, they will need to organize their team. He noted that Perroni distributed a white paper outlining different organizational structures. He asked participants to review the paper before the April 1999 meeting so that options can be discussed during the meeting. (Bill Burns said he never received the white paper. Perroni agreed to send it to him.)

Steimle's comments spurred discussion about the Dry Cleaners Remediation Project team's goals. Dale Trippler asked whether the group should encourage more states to develop dry cleaning fund programs, or should simply work to streamline and improve existing laws and regulations. In general, participants did not plan to encourage more states to create dry cleaning fund programs. In fact, some state representatives (e.g., North Carolina's Jack Butler and Kansas' Leo Henning) noted that their state departments did not initiate the programs in the first place. Often, they explained, the dry cleaning industry is the entity that pushes the legislation forth. Although participants did not want to solicit the creation of more dry cleaning fund programs, they did agree that they could help states that were in the process of creating programs. Participants said they could help new states (1) negotiate with the dry cleaning industry when new legislation is promulgated, (2) draft regulations and set up revenue programs, and (3) avoid many of the pitfalls that have already been encountered. Henning and Dick DeZeeuw said that the team should share management and remediation success and failure stories with other interested parties.

Steimle agreed that the team already serves as a useful informational resource. He said there is no other place where people can get information about technical and managerial problems that occur "in the trenches." He suggested that the group consider forming a more organized unit. In the future, Steimle said, more questions may be directed to the group. Steimle noted that efforts are being made to force all states to address dry cleaning sites. If these efforts are successful, Steimle said, the Dry Cleaners Remediation Project team may be looked upon as the vanguard on fund programs and solicited for advice by many different agencies. (Steimle said the Barton Bill proposes national requirements for addressing dry cleaning sites. He said the bill will be latched onto the Superfund Reauthorization bill and will likely be debated during 1999. Robin Schmidt said that she spoke with representatives from the Association of State and Territorial Solid Waste Management Officials [ASTSWMO] and that this organization is not currently devoting their attention to this bill. Tim Steele recommended that members of the Dry Cleaners Remediation Project team forward information to their Washington, D.C., representatives so that these representatives can argue persuasively when the Barton Bill is debated.)

Presentation by the State of North Carolina
Bruce Nicholson and Jack Butler, North Carolina Superfund Section
Bruce Nicholson said the Dry Cleaners Association undertook the effort to create a dry cleaning fund program in North Carolina. Although initial efforts were unsuccessful, legislation for the North Carolina's Dry Cleaner Solvent Cleanup Fund was finally passed in late 1997. Nicholson said that the legislation is posted at http://wastenot.ehnr.state.nc.us/sfhome.

Nicholson said that state legislators agreed to pass the statute after the Dry Cleaners Association added a section regarding insurance. As written in the legislation, dry cleaners are required to obtain a minimum of $1 million of pollution and remediation liability insurance for each of their facilities. With this provision in place, Nicholson explained, the Dry Cleaner Solvent Cleanup Fund would not be required to pay for all Remediation costs because a large portion would be compensated by insurance companies. He noted that the statute allows dry cleaners to apply for a certificate of uninsurability. Those that qualify can apply to have their assessment and remediation costs paid by the Fund.

Under the current legislation, Nicholson said, revenue for the fund is collected from solvent fees. He said that a $5.8 fee is charged for every gallon of chlorinated dry cleaning solvent that is sold. For hydrocarbon-based solvents, a fee of $0.80 is charged. Nicholson said that the Department of Revenue collects the fees, and he estimated that $800,000 is generated annually. (Nicholson said that a record of revenue collection is on his department's Web site.) Of the $800,000, $125,000 is siphoned to the Department of Revenue to offset its administrative costs. Of the remainder, an additional 20% is allotted to the North Carolina Superfund Section to cover administrative costs. Nicholson said that two employees have recently been hired to administer the fund.

Nicholson noted that legislation for North Carolina's Dry Cleaner Solvent Cleanup Fund is currently being rewritten. He said that the current law has become unworkable due to recent changes in insurance company policies. At the time that the legislation was passed, one insurance carrier offered insurance for historical releases. Due to some negative experiences, however, the insurance carrier no longer offers this protection and canceled many existing policies. Although insurance carriers do cover sudden and accidental releases, there is currently no avenue for insuring historical releases, as required under the legislation. Nicholson said his department is working with stakeholders (e.g., the dry cleaning industry, environmental groups, and environmental contractors) to draft new legislation. He said the new legislation could negate the insurance provision, but that consensus has not yet been reached on the redraft. Butler said the redraft will be presented to state legislators but that he does not know how they will react to the changes.

Without the anticipated influx of money from insurance companies, Nicholson noted, the Dry Cleaner Solvent Cleanup Fund is grossly underfunded. After administrative costs are subtracted, only about $500,000 is available for cleanups each year. Although no one is currently tapping into the fund, large sums of money will be needed in the near future. Not only will the Fund be used for upcoming assessments and remediation projects, it will also be used to reimburse some costs that eligible dry cleaning owners incurred after 1997. Nicholson estimated that cleanups will cost about $10 million to $20 million. (He said approximately 600 dry cleaning sites have been identified in the state and that another 600 unidentified abandoned sites may exist as well. Of the dry cleaning sites currently identified, about 50 have already been determined to need assessment or remediation.) Nicholson and Butler said that the dry cleaning industry has suggested increasing fund revenue resources via:

In addition to working on a statute redraft, Nicholson said, his department and other stakeholders are currently developing:

In closing, Nicholson noted that the statute authorizes the use of land-use restrictions. Butler stressed that his department supports the use of land restrictions but wants to make sure it does not become a liability protection measure that substitutes cleanup.

Discussion on RCRA Interpretations
DeZeeuw said that he wanted to discuss how different states apply RCRA to dry cleaner cleanups. Conference call participants agreed that it would be best to postpone discussion on this topic until the next conference call.

Results from Minnesota's Questionnaire
Dale Trippler, Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (PCA)
Trippler noted that the PCA is charged with adjusting fees to maintain certain revenue levels in Minnesota's dry cleaner fund program. Trippler said he feared the revenue levels will be impossible to maintain because the PCA cannot exceed a 200% fee increase on solvent fees. In an effort to find ways to amend the Fund program, Trippler said he sent questionnaires to about 400 dry cleaners. The questionnaire listed 10 questions that focused on various aspects of Minnesota's dry cleaning fund program and asked for comments and suggestions for changes.

Trippler said that he received about 77 responses and is currently analyzing the results. Preliminary analysis indicates that about 55 to 60% of respondents felt favorably about the program, but that the remainder did not like the program. Trippler said that there was a close correlation between a respondent's opinion about the fairness of the fee system and their opinion on the overall program.

Trippler said that the questionnaire indicated that there is a pattern of discontent among dry cleaners located near the South Dakota and North Dakota border. According to Trippler, dry cleaners in the neighboring states offer lower prices than their Minnesota counterparts because they are not required to pay taxes to state dry cleaner fund programs. Small facilities (i.e., those with less than 5 full-time equivalency [FTE] employees) that are located in highly competitive places (e.g., the Twin Cities) are also dissatisfied with Minnesota's fund program, Trippler said. Under the current fee system, he explained, different annual fees are charged to dry cleaners based on their size. Dry cleaners fall into one of three fee categories: (1) those with less than five FTE employees, (2) those with 5 to 10 FTE employees, and (3) those with more than 10 FTE employees. Under the current system, a facility that employs 10 people pays the same annual fee as a facility that employs 50. Trippler said that he plans to recommend creating more fee categories so that larger companies pay more.

Trippler said that he will be generating a plan to restructure the fee system in the near future. John Kelley recommended contacting the Williams Company. Kelley said that this company runs Ohio's dry cleaner fund program and has been instrumental in writing legislation in several states. Kelley agreed to forward a contact name to Trippler, noting that the Williams Company may have useful suggestions on raising revenue.

Trippler agreed to send a copy of the questionnaire's results to Steimle by the end of January 1999. He said that he was also willing to send copies to any participants who expressed interest.

Miscellaneous

          Revised Health-Based Guidelines
Henning asked Steimle whether an Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) representative could talk to the team about PCE and trichloroethylene (TCE) guidelines. Henning said he has heard rumors that ground-water health guidelines for these constituents could change in the near future. Steimle said he would try to find someone to speak about this topic at the April 1999 meeting.

Burns noted that Florida is in the process of creating new state-wide standards for soil and ground-water cleanup programs. He said the new standards should be implemented by the end of March 1999 and will be posted on Florida's Web site.

          Inspections
Henning noted that many state programs require facilities to adhere to best management practices (BMPs). He asked participants if they have performed inspections to ensure compliance, and if so, how they have funded and staffed the inspections. Henning noted that many dry cleaners in Kansas are pressuring his department to perform the inspections. Apparently, he noted, dry cleaners who have spent money to adopt BMPs are anxious for noncompliant facilities to be inspected.

In Oregon, DeZeeuw said, dry cleaners are also anxious for inspections to begin. DeZeeuw said inspections are scheduled to begin within the month and will be conducted by a team consisting of a semi-retired dry cleaner and people from the Air Quality Division, Hazardous Waste Division, and the Waste Management and Cleanup Division. (DeZeeuw noted that Oregon originally planned to have a consultant perform the inspections, but that this did not work out.) DeZeeuw said that inspectors will visit each facility, generate a compliance check list, and create a timetable for noncompliant facilities to adopt BMPs. He said that the inspection effort will cost about $70,000.

Nicholson said that he is not sure how the inspections in North Carolina will be funded. Under the current law, facilities are required to have insurance, and insurance companies are likely to insist that facilities meet certain BMPs. As noted previously, however, North Carolina's legislature is being redrafted. Under the new law, insurance companies are not likely to play a major role in the program, and the job of enforcing BMPs will fall to the state.

In Florida, Burns said, EPA's Region IV has lead the effort to place dry cleaners on strict compliance inspection schedules. In Tennessee, Steve Goins noted, new dry cleaning facilities are not eligible for the Fund unless they meet BMPs. He said that his state is considering offering a discount on annual registration fees for those facilities that meet BMPs. Another participant noted that the Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assistance (OECA) has suggested alternatives to standard inspections, such as adopting a self-auditing system.

    Statute-Required Assessments

Nicholson asked participants to comment on how many of their cleanup sites are discovered through statute-required assessments. In Illinois, Kelley said, each facility is required to obtain an assessment when it applies for the Fund or purchases liability insurance. In Kansas, Henning said, his department does not actively search for contaminated sites. In Florida, Burns said, facilities had to document contamination prior to December 1998 if they wanted to apply for the fund. (Burns noted that 1,700 sites have documented contamination.)

Action Items

Scheduling of Next Conference Call
Steimle said that Perroni will schedule the next conference call.