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SLO business combats PCE contamination with soil remediation permit application 

A San Luis Obispo business wants to remediate toxin-polluted soil at a former Higuera Street dry cleaning site it's now located on.

click to enlarge SITE OF REPAIR The location of a former dry cleaning site, the American Riviera Bank building on 1085 Higuera Street could undergo a soil remediation process because of the presence of toxic perchloroethylene. - PHOTO TAKEN FROM AMERICAN RIVIERA BANK FACEBOOK
  • Photo Taken From American Riviera Bank Facebook
  • SITE OF REPAIR The location of a former dry cleaning site, the American Riviera Bank building on 1085 Higuera Street could undergo a soil remediation process because of the presence of toxic perchloroethylene.

More than a year after the California Department of Toxic Substances Control and Central Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board identified four sites in SLO where perchloroethylene soil contamination exceeded 865 times the safe limit, Stalwork Inc. employee Ben Kulick filed a remediation application with the SLO County Air Pollution Control District.

"State law requires that the district notify individuals prior to issuing a permit for any new source of hazardous air contaminants within 1,000 feet of a school," the Air Pollution Control District's May 31 public notice read. "The proposed location is within 1,000 feet of the San Luis Classical Academy."

Air Pollution Control Engineer Sarah Wade told New Times that the notice was sent out in two parts—first to the Classical Academy on May 24 and then to 929 residences and businesses near the contaminated location on May 31. The notice triggered the start of the public comment period for the remediation project, which will end on June 30. Send written comments to the Air Pollution Control District at 3433 Roberto Court and submit verbal statements to Wade at (805) 781-5912.

While the public notice mentioned that construction firm Stalwork Inc. submitted the permit application for soil remediation, Wade clarified to New Times that Kulick is only a Stalwork employee. According to Kulick's application, he filed it under the facility name 1135 Santa Rosa LLC, which is located at 1085 Higuera Street—currently the American Riviera Bank building.

"That was a little bit of misunderstand with the application," Wade said. "When we printed the notice, we used Stalwork's name given the applicant was already on file as an employee there. ... We don't typically do a reissue of notices for corrections like this because don't we don't typically have to do very many notices."

She added that Kulick's remediation application is the only perchloroethylene-related one the Air Pollution Control District's received so far.

Also called PCE or PERC, the colorless liquid byproduct of now-defunct dry cleaning and industrial activities was first detected in SLO above its maximum contaminant level in the late 1980s. Previous New Times reporting found that the contamination prevented the city from using the groundwater as a drinking water supply.

A character study of the SLO Valley Groundwater Basin in 2022 found a small plume of the carcinogen across a stretch of the basin overlayed by a portion of the city. In March, the city received a $6.6 million grant from the California State Water Resources Control Board to cure its groundwater.

In Kulick's case, E2C Remediation proposed the installation of a soil vapor extraction system to treat the soil. If the Air Pollution Control District issues Kulick the permit, third party E2C Remediation will conduct the cleanup. Kulick didn't respond to New Times' requests for comment.

The remediation company's October 2023 letter enclosed with the application noted that soil vapor concentrations are relatively low, and E2C will run the extraction system on pilot test mode for the first 30 days.

"Vapors from the contaminated soil will be pulled out of the ground and sent through two large carbon vessels, which will control emissions of perchloroethylene by a minimum of 98 percent," the Air Pollution Control District notice said.

The district anticipates minimal adverse health impacts from the remediation process, adding that the pollutants will decline in concentration over time.

As of June 4, the district received three comments from the public inquiring about the remediation process.

"It's a pretty minor remediation, and we have the confidence the professionals will do their job, and they're very aware that it's in a high visibility area," Wade said. "This is kind of a standard practice in making up for environmental mistakes of yore. Let's hope that we don't have too many of those left to do and that we don't repeat those in the future." Δ

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