Dry cleaning solvents delay construction in Nanaimo

A former laundromat has delayed work at Port Place Shopping Centre while property owners clean up contaminated soil.

Remnants from a former laundromat have delayed work at Port Place Shopping Centre while property owners clean up contaminated soil.

The work drew public attention when workers in white Tyvek suits were seen drilling into the soil and pumping in large quantities of hydrogen peroxide solution into the drill sites.

“It was a bit of a surprise to discover we had dry cleaning solvents in the soil there because we had no indication when we did our environmental investigations when we purchased the property that a dry cleaner operated there,” said Ralph Huizinga, First Capital Realty vice president of acquisitions and development. “Our consultants couldn’t find any evidence of that through business registries or anecdotal information.”

Huizinga said the dry cleaning solvents were discovered in the soil when the company conducted additional environmental investigations.

Percholorethylene, one of the most commonly used dry cleaning solvents, has been linked to cancers and is environmentally harmful.

Because the pollution plume in the soil is close to the building’s foundations, removing all of the contaminated soil is not an option.

In such cases, a solution of five per cent strength hydrogen peroxide, which neutralizes dry cleaning solvent residue, is injected into the ground.

“What the hydrogen peroxide does is break down or oxidize the dry cleaning solvents in the soil,” Huizinga said. “We had to address it and it set us back a couple of months and a few hundred thousand dollars.”

The injection process ended early last week and crews will survey the effectiveness of the work in October.

“We’re going to re-sample and our consultants tell us it may require one further injection, but we won’t know until we re-sample,” he said. “In about six weeks we have another sampling of that to see what the dry cleaning solvent levels are at.”