The owner of a Quebec-based dry cleaning company has pled guilty and has been fined $77,000 for contravening a series of federal environmental laws around the handling of a synthetic chemical used as dry cleaning fluid.
In 2016, Environment and Climate Change Canada environmental inspection officers visited the Laval numbered company and determined that the owner, Serge Forest, had engaged in improper storage and disposal of tetrachloroethylene, widely known as TCE or PERC, the dry cleaning waste byproduct that falls under strict federal guidelines for use.
In addition to its use for fabrics, TCE is used in some degreasing agents, paint removers, and used to be in spray fixatives for arts and craft uses. It has been linked to kidney toxicity, immunotoxicity, neurotoxicity, and liver toxicity, including cancer. It is a non-flammable colorless liquid with a sweet odour similar to ether or chloroform. While found widely in the environment at low levels unlikely to harm wildlife or plants, it may contribute to the formation of ground level ozone or photochemical smogs which can damage crops and materials, according to research by international environment agencies.
The dry cleaner’s owner was also found to be in violation of keeping adequate records in relation to the dry cleaning activities.
Inspection officers issued an environmental protection compliance order to resolve the issues on the premises; however, the dry cleaning company’s owner never complied with the direction.
Company owner Serge Forest pled guilty in July to four counts of violating the Tetrachloroethylene Regulations under the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999. He also pleaded guilty to failing to comply with an environmental protection compliance order issued by an enforcement officer under the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999.
In addition to the fine, which will be directed to the Government of Canada’s Environmental Damages Fund, the court offered some unique orders to the dry cleaning business. Firstly, the owner must publish an article in Fabricare Canada magazine detailing the facts relating to the case’s offences. That article must then be displayed in the window of the dry cleaning shop for one year.
Second, the company owner must complete Seneca College’s Dry Cleaners Environmental Management Training Course within 18 months after the judgment.
Lastly, the company must design and implement training for all employees, develop a safe procedure for using and handling tetrachloroethylene, and provide Environment and Climate Change Canada with a copy of the procedure, as well as the date and names of the employees trained, as soon as possible.
Check out a video made by Environment and Climate Change Canada about proper waste handling methods for PERC/TCE.