Student Research: Jessie Taylor

MS, , 2012
Faculty Advisor: Michael G. Yost

Characterizing the Waste Streams from Alternative Solvent Dry Cleaners


The use of perchloroethylene (PERC) as a dry cleaning solvent has been associated with adverse health effects in workers and significant environmental contamination at current and former dry cleaning sites. The wastes generated by PERC dry cleaning machines are also extremely hazardous because they can contain percentage levels of PERC and other hazardous substances. Several solvent alternatives to PERC have been introduced over the last decade that are reported to be environmentally preferable. However, relatively little is known about the health or environmental impacts associated with these solvents. Previous studies have demonstrated the presence of PERC in the waste streams of dry cleaning operations that use newer non-chlorinated, petroleum-based alternative hydrocarbon solvents. However, to date, neither the source of this contaminant nor the hazardous waste status of the still bottoms and separator water generated by these alternative machines has been adequately characterized. There is a lack of information concerning the type and composition of products used by alternative solvent cleaners. Characterization of the waste streams in comparison to the Washington State Department of Ecology’s Dangerous Waste criteria has also not been conducted. This study seeks to chemically characterize the wastes generated by alternative solvent dry cleaning machines and evaluate any linkage to work practices and the composition of products used by the cleaners. This information will be beneficial for dry cleaning proprietors and King County Local Hazardous Waste Management Program (LHWMP) in providing recommendations for appropriate work practices, the selection of dry cleaning products, reevaluating current waste management policies, and evaluating the occupational health impacts of products and wastes.

*Taken from introduction