Trichloroethylene (TCE)

The good intentions of scientists who developed tetrachloroethylene, or perchloroethylene (PCE), and trichloroethylene (TCE) in the early part of the 20th Century to remove grease from textiles and metals led to one of the pollution abatement industry’s largest remediation challenges.

PCE (also known as “Perc”) and TCE are volatile man-made chlorinated solvents: popular in industries as diverse as dry cleaning, food processing, furniture making, engine manufacturing, auto and jet maintenance, printing, and electronics. The Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry lists TCE as the most frequently reported organic contaminant in groundwater; it takes up residence far longer in groundwater than surface water and may be contaminating between 9 and 34 percent of drinking water supplies in the U.S. In addition, TCE causes thousands of Vapor Intrusion (VI) violations.

PCE’s special qualities in removing grease from textiles made it one of the most common dry cleaning chemicals of the 20th Century. Many dry cleaners no longer use PCE, but it remains in groundwater and subsoils beneath thousands of current and former dry cleaning plants.

The EPA notes that TCE and PCE are potentially toxic to adults and children, affecting nerves, immune systems, development, livers, kidneys and the endocrine system. They are considered “highly likely to produce cancer in humans.” Exposure to low levels of TCE or PCE can cause skin, eye, and respiratory tract irritation, nausea, vomiting, headache, dizziness, unconsciousness, irregular heartbeat, and memory loss. TCE has been linked to reproductive problems among women exposed at work, and exposure through community drinking water has been linked to cardiac birth defects and childhood leukemia.

The EPA enforces a Maximum Contaminant Level for TCE or PCE of 5 parts-per-billion or 0.005 parts-per-million for drinking water. The EPA identifies TCE presence in at least 60 percent of the nation’s 1,428 most serious hazardous waste sites.

Assessing the risk and treating the problem

Dealing with environmental contamination and liability is one of the biggest issues a business owner can face. This can become an expensive situation if not handled properly and can potentially put your business in jeopardy.

Our team of environmental professional geologists, engineers, geochemists and scientists work together to assist our clients with all facets of an environmental investigation—from the initial response of contamination being detected, to investigation of the site, all the way to remediation. Additionally, EnviroForensics specializes in locating alternative funding to pay for environmental liabilities by finding and using historical insurance policies.

EnviroForensics’ engineers begin with risk assessment and follow through with a plan and remedial action. Depending on the amount (if any) and activity level of pollution, the plan may trigger immediate action or “watchful waiting.”

Tactics developed by EnviroForensics — in the field and in the lab — for assessing, monitoring and abating the effects of chlorinated solvents (PCE and TCE) ensure the long-term success of our clients’ environmental compliance and risk-management strategies. The work we do for our clients allows them to move past their environmental liability and utilize their property for its highest value.