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Dry cleaning, hazardous waste sites among those falling through budget cracks, group says

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With the focus on big-spending items in the House and Senate budgets this week, some smaller but important spending issues are going unnoticed.

For example, the proposed House and Senate budgets each contain $6.5 million for dry-cleaning sites and $3.5 million for cleaning up hazardous waste sites. But site cleanup professionals say more is needed.

“That (funding) doesn’t help with the dilemma or potential crisis we are facing,” said Phil Leary, a lobbyist for the Florida Ground Water Association. “Its almost like they (legislators) don’t understand.”

The Legislature in 1994 established the Dry-cleaning Solvent Cleanup Program at the Florida Department of Environmental Protection for cleaning up sites and groundwater.

Dry cleaners typically use a solvent called perchloroethylene to remove stains from garments. Perchloroethylene, which can increase the risk of cancer for those working around the chemical, is considered a hazardous waste, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

DEP said in 2013 that 139 dry-cleaning sites had been cleaned up. Another 1,284 were eligible under the program with work underway at 192.

The Legislature in 2008 appropriated $10.1 million for the program but the appropriation was reduced to $4 million for the following three years.

Leary’s group issued a white paper in 2013 calling for an assessment of the remaining cleanup sites.

His group also has been asking in recent years for $15 million for dry-cleaning sites and $10 million for hazardous waste sites.

Leary said he doesn’t expect those programs to receive more money during floor amendments and debate this week on the House and Senate budgets.

But he’s hoping that some of the $40 million being swept from a trust fund that receives tax revenue on barrels of oil can be diverted during the conference committee process to the dry-cleaning and hazardous waste cleanup programs.

“We’re working hard sending our white paper to key legislators and budget committee staff,” Leary said, “to let them know about the risk-based analysis of what we’re dealing with.”

Bruce Ritchie (@bruceritchie) covers environment, energy and growth management in Tallahassee. 

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