Why wait to address environmental contamination? Be proactive now.


Property owner with environmental contamination issue burying head in sand


There is a stigma that goes along with environmental contamination. Unfortunately, this stigma makes business owners fearful of addressing their environmental contamination. This often results in either avoiding the problem or pretending the problem doesn’t exist, but environmental contamination won’t go away on its own. Therefore, it’s important to address environmental contamination head-on.

For over ten years, I’ve spoken with hundreds of dry cleaners across the country about their environmental issues and I’ve heard every concern surrounding the topic of investigation environmental contamination and cleaning up environmental contamination. Those concerns don’t vary much across the board. If I have heard the phrase “I don’t want to open that can of worms” once, I’ve heard it a thousand times, and due to the high costs of environmental cleanups and the involvement of state regulatory agencies, it’s understandable why some might want to stick their head in the sand.

I’ve built relationships with drycleaners nationwide – some who have become clients and others who are still not ready to actively investigate the possibility of environmental contamination. I feel that it is my duty to explain why environmental agencies, consultants and engineers are not looking to put business owners or property owners in a pickle or a bind; in fact, looking into and addressing environmental issues, especially proactively, are not bad things. In fact, it’s time to consider looking at it in a new light.

Learn how to turn an environmental cleanup into good public relations for your business.

We’ve helped hundreds of dry cleaners, manufacturers, and chrome platers and metal finishers navigate their environmental concerns with little to no out-of-pocket costs to them. Our goal is to help our clients get out of a challenging situation without a large financial burden. We understand how challenging this process can be for business and property owners and have successfully helped our clients navigate through these often uncharted waters. Want to hear what our clients think? Hear from our dry cleaning clients and get an inside perspective on their environmental challenges.


We’ve had a lot of success cleaning up properties impacted with PCE and TCE, and our clients have had their own successes as well, in that they are having their environmental liabilities turned back into assets.

That is to say that their once contaminated property, which had little to no resale value, is now worth what it would be clean and unencumbered. You see, we are looking out for our clients and are the experts many have come to trust as the experts who wear the white hats. How do we do this?

  • We are the experts who help get funding in place through the use of old insurance policies so that our clients don’t face financial ruin; the experts who clean up environmental contamination to the highest standard possible and return blighted properties and businesses to their fair market value; and
  • the experts who handle every point of our clients’ environmental cleanups from start to finish on our clients’ behalves so that they are free to run their businesses, enjoy retirement, live their lives without worrying about what is around the next corner of their project.
EnviroForensics’ business concept illustrated with an infographic of a polluting industries before environmental contamination cleanup on the left side of the tree and after on the right.
By cleaning up your environmental contamination, you can turn your environmental liabilities into assets®.

My intention is not to downplay the process because there is no denying the fact that environmental cleanup is a huge deal. They are very expensive, they take a long time to complete, and they require a high level of trust between the business owner and the environmental consultant that the project will be taken care of as efficiently, professionally, and economically as possible.

Get our five tips for hiring an environmental consultant and download our interview questionnaire.

I do understand, and fully respect, the concerns of prospective clients who are frightened of taking the leap into the unknown. A proactive approach is by far the most beneficial approach for the Potentially Responsible Party and/or the business owner because they can be in control of the situation rather than being reactive to a situation like a lawsuit from their neighbor.


If you’ve read the Cleaner & Launderer column “The Environmental Corner”, you’ve read articles on a number of topics ranging from how historical insurance policies can be used to pay for cleanups to technical issues on how contamination can create vapors that can impact neighboring properties through vapor intrusion. The latter of the two topics is the key to all successful environmental cleanups and conversely, is also what usually confuses people the most.

Vapor intrusion concerns are often associated with environmental investigation and remediation projects Brownfields sites, dry cleaners, gas stations, commercial buildings, multi-unit residential, schools and large buildings. These concerns can impact public health and property values so they aren’t to be taken lightly or slowly. The earlier the vapor intrusion concern is discovered, investigated and remedied the better it’ll be for everyone involved.

To learn more about the environmental investigation and environmental cleanup process, read our 101 series: Environmental Investigations 101: Understanding PCE Contamination and Environmental Cleanup 101: Understanding what to expect during the remediation process.


Another area where business and property owners find challenges is finding the funds to pay for the environmental investigation and cleanup. Some opt to pay out-of-pocket because they don’t know there are other funding options available.

Old Commercial General Liability insurance policies, and by “old,” I mean policies that pre-date an Absolute Pollution Exclusion, which in most states is before ~1986, can pay for your environmental investigation and cleanup.

old files on shelves found during insurance archeology that can be used to pay to address environmental contamination
Learn more about how old commercial general liability policies can fund environmental investigation and remediation.

You’re probably asking yourself, “Wait, I can use my old insurance policies to pay for my environmental cleanup?”. Right now is when we can add “too good to be true” as another one of those phrases I hear so regularly, but dependent upon a few criteria it is true, and it’s why we encourage people to locate their old policies and store them in a fireproof storage box. There is a service for locating lost insurance policies, called Insurance Archeology if you are in need of assistance in finding yours.

I do stress that a proactive approach to all things environmental is truly the most beneficial way to go, for any business or property owner with a possible environmental liability on their hands. Waiting for someone to discover your contamination and pin it on you is a recipe for disaster, and anyone who has been in that position, which is becoming a more and more common occurrence, will tell you that it is not a pleasant one to be in.

Understand the difference between proactive or reactive when dealing with environmental contamination.

If you are ill-prepared when an environmental issue is placed in your lap, it could mean thousands of dollars, in some instances, tens of thousands, of out-of-pocket costs. A proactive approach means that you are in command of the situation and by being in front of the issue, you will save yourself a lot of stress and money. Don’t leave environmental contamination for your family and loved ones, or even strangers, to deal with.

Consult with us, it’s free and it’s confidential.

Headshot of Dru ShieldsDru Carlisle, Director of Drycleaner Accounts
For over 10 years, Dru has helped numerous business and property owners facing regulatory action, navigate and manage their environmental liability. Dru has vast experience in assisting dry cleaners in securing funding for their environmental cleanups through historical insurance policies. Dru is a member of numerous drycleaning associations in addition to serving on the Midwest Drycleaning and Laundry Institute (MWDLI) advisory council and on the Drycleaning & Laundry Institute Board (DLI) as an Allied Trade District Committee Member.

Help Protect the Environment on World Cleanup Day, And Every Day

A group photo of EnviroForensics employees after the World Cleanup Day event.


This Saturday, September 21st, is World Cleanup Day, a day dedicated to rid the planet of litter and mismanaged waste. 380 million people across the globe are expected to band together with their neighbors, roll up their sleeves, and clean up their communities one trash bag at a time. 

We celebrated early by going around our neighborhood in the Indianapolis North Meridian Corridor on Friday to pick up wrappers, aluminum cans, cigarette butts, plastic bags, and other litter. It’s an easy way to show neighborhood pride, and it’s one of the many things we do as a company to protect the environment and give back to the community.   

EnviroForensics employees pick up litter around North Meridian Corridor.

We clean up environmental contamination

We’re a national full-service environmental consulting firm solving complex environmental issues. We investigate and clean up environmental contamination for small business owners, large multinational organizations and governments including dry cleaners, municipalities, mergers and acquisitions, real estate, legal, banks and lenders, manufacturers, industrial launders and textiles, petroleum and agribusiness. The ultimate goal of our work is to use our collective expertise in environmental science, geology, and engineering to clean up properties for our clients and the surrounding community.

We’re bound together by our common value to look after the environment 

We’re a group of inspired scientists, geologists, and engineers that cares deeply for the planet and understand the importance of protecting our environment. This passion fuels us both inside and outside the office. Our employees regularly volunteer their own time to events that protect the environment and enrich the community. We’re also a proud member of the Indiana Department of Environmental Management’s (IDEM) Partners for Pollution Prevention

Read more about the Indiana Partners for Pollution Prevention and how we prevent waste at the office each day

Our commitment to the environment is what brings us together 

We are committed to protecting the environment, and this is part of the company’s DNA. Our employees inspire each other to be environmental stewards and commit to more sustainable behaviors. Here are three quotes to help inspire you to live an environmentally conscious life. 

You can download the below graphics and share them on social media with the hashtag #WorldCleanupDay and tag @EnviroForensics. 




We invite you to be environmental stewards every day

Making the world a cleaner place doesn’t necessarily require you to volunteer your time with a neighborhood cleanup group, although we highly recommend it. You can pick up litter during your daily routine, whether it’s on the morning jaunt from your car to the office, or your evening walks around the block with your dog. Here are three simple tips to incorporate litter pickup into your day-to-day life: 

  1. Carry napkins: One of the biggest mental obstacles to picking up litter is the germ factor. Not wanting to touch it with your bare hands is a reasonable excuse. Carry napkins in your purse or pockets to give yourself an added layer of defense when you pick up that discarded beer can on the sidewalk. 
  2. Carry hand sanitizer: If you don’t want to carry napkins around, a small bottle of hand sanitizer can go a long way in giving even the most fastidious germaphobe some peace of mind.
  3. Know what you should and should not pick up: There are some things a napkin or hand sanitizer just won’t protect you from. For these items, it’s better to report them to the proper authorities. Things like:
    • Needles
    • Human waste
    • Personal hygiene products
    • Electrical items
    • Dead animals
    • Bottles of liquid
    • Unlabeled bottles

You can help cut down on the amount of waste being created. Check out our list of 10 things you can do to reduce plastic pollution.

This post is brought to you by the EnviroForensics Sustainability Council

The EnviroForensics Sustainability Council advances education through community relations and implements sustainable practices in our operations and facilities.

Environmental Cleanup 101: Understanding what to expect during the remediation process


Environmental lightbulb in front of chalkboard with remediation and health-related sketches


For those who don’t frequently deal with environmental cleanup (also known as remediation), the reasoning, objectives, and process can be a bit of a black box. It’s not dissimilar to how most of us feel about a medical procedure. Here are three things people usually feel before embarking on a medical procedure:

  1. We must rely on the expertise and knowledge of others to even know there is a specific problem;
  2. We trust that the healing procedure being proposed will fix the problem
  3. We don’t really know what the procedure will be like, but we know that it might hurt.

The medical analogy is a particularly good analogy for the environmental investigation and cleanup process. Previously, I’ve discussed Environmental Investigations 101: Understanding PCE Contamination and how the collection of subsurface samples and the application of scientific principles result in a picture of what the contamination is, where it is, and how bad the problem is. In the medical analogy, this would be the phase consisting of seeing the doctor with the evidence you have that there might be a problem, getting tests completed like an MRI or a biopsy, and receiving the diagnosis.

Infographic of the environmental remediation process and its analogous medical treatment process steps
An easy way to understand the environmental cleanup process is to compare environmental remediation to the medical treatment process.

Upon hearing that a problem exists, the anxiety can start to take hold for the patient because questions arise, for which the answers are unknown. Some questions may include:

  1. What can be done about it?
  2. Is there a cure?
  3. How long will this take to cure?
  4. Does my doctor know what they are doing?
  5. How much is this going to cost?!
  6. Will my insurance cover it?

These questions represent the unknown, and the unknown can be terrifying. Any doctor will tell you that some people are so afraid of these questions that they’d rather not even know if they have a problem, and foolishly never seek a medical exam. Any doctor will tell you if you think you have a problem…find it and fix it. You’ll live a longer and happier life. With the medical analogy in mind, I’d like to focus this article back on the environmental remediation process to answer as many questions as possible for you, to eliminate the unknowns, and to alleviate the associated anxiety.

So, let’s say that from the environmental investigation your dry cleaner site has just been diagnosed with a nasty case of contamination by hazardous chemicals. Since the goal of your environmental practitioner is to ensure that the problem gets fixed, there first needs to be an assessment of all the potential cleanup technologies that could be used alongside the specific characteristics of your site. Questions that need to be answered include:

  1. Are any people currently being exposed to the contamination?
  2. What amount of contaminant may safely remain after cleanup and still be suitable for future planned land use (i.e. what are appropriate cleanup objectives)?
  3. How will each potential remedial technology interact with the exact type of soils and geologic materials beneath your site?
  4. How will the naturally occurring geochemistry of soils and groundwater interact with any potential treatment chemicals?
  5. How long would each remediation technology take to reach the cleanup objectives if implemented?
  6. What are the comparable unit costs per measure of contaminant removed from the ground for each anticipated technology?

Ultimately, the question to be answered is, What is the best and most cost-effective cleanup technology to meet our objectives? This process is called a Feasibility Study and it determines which cleanup approach is the most feasible.

Read about a former dry cleaning site that we cleaned up in 120 days with thermal technology.

During the feasibility study, as the business or property owner, you’ll need to make sure to speak up and let your consultant know if there are any limitations that they should be considering for the cleanup approach. For example, parking areas that absolutely must remain clear during business hours, areas of the building that cannot be disturbed no matter what, or even simple things like traffic flow patterns for your drive-through lane. We have done work for a lot of dry cleaners, so we always think to ask about these kinds of things, but not every remediation engineer does. All your business considerations could have a significant impact on which cleanup technology can be implemented. If your building is located directly over the area of soil contamination, a common remedial technology could be demolition and excavation. While this may make perfect sense to the remediation engineer, having your building torn down in order to dig a big hole may not exactly fit into your business operation plans. The bottom line here is to speak up early in the process and make sure your business needs are heard before the project begins.

Once the appropriate cleanup objectives and remediation technology have been decided, there are a few steps to go through before work can begin. Typically, but not always, the regulatory agency will want to look at your remediation plan and have a chance to comment on it, or even to approve it. Once the agency has given the head-nod, an important point to remember is that you want to have the money conversation before you send the plan to the regulatory agency. Just like you always want to check whether or not your insurance will cover your medical procedure before you get it done. I talk about the cost of cleanup and funding alternatives a lot, so I’m going to skip that conversation, for‌ ‌now, other than to say that the money talk is the very first talk that you should have way before the investigation process even begins.

When you have gotten the green light to get started on the remedial action, things will start to move quickly because it’s go-time. Typically, when remediation work begins, there will be a flurry of activity for two weeks to a month while the initial work is completed. Remedial strategies commonly consist of an aggressive contaminant reduction effort, followed by a long period of monitoring to see how it has worked. During the initial treatment, there may be drill rigs, dump trucks, trailers, and people all over your site, and things could even be a bit messy.

Your environmental consultant should have provided you with a detailed schedule of events and they should keep you informed during the process so that you know exactly what to expect. You’ll need that information to keep your customers informed. I have had many clients actually take this time to post signage explaining to their customers that the business is doing their part to clean up an old environmental problem, demonstrating their commitment to their community and customers.

Are you looking for an environmental consultant? Read 5 Considerations When Selecting an Environmental Consultant for Dry Cleaners.

The Dygert Family, owners of Mercury Cleaners holding sign in front of business promoting their environmental remediation efforts
The Dygert family proudly stands in front of their dry cleaning store with a sign that lets their customers know they are remediating environmental contamination. Learn more about how the Dygert family addressed their environmental contamination.

After the initial cleanup effort is undertaken, things will slow down a lot. Monitoring of soil gas and groundwater conditions will need to be performed on a regular, routine quarterly basis for at least a year or so as the contaminant plume reacts to the aggressive, upfront cleanup effort. So, every three months your consultant will come back and collect the monitoring samples, and then they will be gone again. As mentioned previously, it is important to stay involved in the process so that you know how things are going. If you aren’t interested in the scientific details of the remediation monitoring results, at least understand the current conditions as concentrations of the contaminant should start lowering and getting closer to the cleanup objectives. When contaminant levels do reach the closure objectives, if all has gone according to plan, you get to start another monitoring period so that the regulatory agency has confidence that there won’t be a rebound or any remaining post-treatment contaminant in the future.

You can see how the environmental cleanup process gets a reputation for taking a long time because it does. Even after the bulk of actual cleanup activities are completed, there are likely at least two to three years of post-remedial monitoring that needs to happen. Fortunately, routine monitoring isn’t as disruptive as the initial cleanup action, but every few months you will get a reminder that you aren’t quite out of the woods yet, and that can be frustrating. Another thing to make sure you talk to your consultant about: There will be one or more drums of purge water generated during groundwater sampling that will probably need to be stored behind your building for a couple of weeks after each sampling event. Your consultant will label it and manage for its disposal, but there will need to be a short wait while analytical data comes back from the lab and removal can be arranged. If it’s in the way or takes too long to be picked-up, say something.

When follow-up monitoring results show that contaminant concentrations have been reduced and have stayed that way, your consultant will submit all the results to the regulatory agency and ask for case closure. Sometimes this is called a No Further Action status. This is one last time to be patient because most regulatory agencies could take anywhere from two to six months to make this determination and set you free.

The site remediation process can be long, taxing and scary, but hopefully, these insights will give you a little bit of an insider’s perspectives on what to expect. Sometimes consultants and attorneys forget that even though they deal with this process every day, you don’t. Ask them to take the time to explain things to you in detail and help you understand what it will look like from your perspective and your customers’ perspectives. As commonly said, knowing is half the battle.

If you are going through the cleanup process and you have questions, or just want to bounce something off me, drop me an email at jcarnahan@enviroforensics.com. I’d be more than happy to have a conversation with you. I’m here to help.

Contact EnviroForensics, the dry cleaning industry’s most trusted environmental consultant.

As seen in Cleaner & Launderer

Headshot of Jeff CarnahanJeff Carnahan, President at EnviroForensics
Jeff Carnahan, LPG, has 20+ years of environmental consulting and remediation experience. His technical expertise focuses on the investigation and interpretation of subsurface releases of hazardous substances for the purpose of evaluating and controlling the risk and cost implications. He has focused on being a partner with the dry cleaning industry for the past decade, and he’s a frequent contributor to the national dry cleaning publication Cleaner & Launderer. He is an industry leader in understanding that environmental risk includes not only cleanup costs, but also known and unknown third-party liability.

Environmental Cleanup Can Be Good Public Relations for Your Dry Cleaner

Let’s say you’ve found solvent contamination at your dry cleaning facility and its impacted groundwater, soil and/or adjacent property. You are probably thinking, not only is it costly to address the contamination but it could also ruin my good business reputation.

Have you ever thought that cleaning up environmental contamination could be good public relations? It can, and it’s a matter of sharing the right message with your audience.

What does your situation look like?

Dry cleaners have to be careful in how they address their contamination issue. Most dry cleaner’s biggest concern is if they conduct an environmental investigation that they’ll discover their neighbor’s property has contamination on it, or that vapor intrusion is going into their neighbor’s home or business and their neighbors will sue them. While that may be a possibility, that’s not typically how it happens. When the environmental contamination issue arises, it almost always happens in reverse. A lawsuit is filed by a party or group of people against all of the parties that have owned the property or business where contamination is allegedly emanating from. It is rare that a dry cleaner conducts a cleanup and are then being sued. Typically, a real estate transaction of a neighboring business initiates the lawsuit against the former and current owners of the dry cleaning business and/or property. This means that proactively conducting an environmental investigation will lead to addressing environmental contamination on your timeframe instead of someone else’s. By the way, while PERC, a dry cleaning solvent, is considered a known carcinogen, it is generally very difficult to attribute a person’s adverse health condition to PERC exposure. For example, if someone that has cancer was exposed to PERC they have likely been exposed to other chemicals that are also carcinogenic; making the direct link between the alleged PERC exposure and the health effect more difficult to legally prove. Out of the hundreds of environmental investigations that I’ve been involved with, only a handful of sites received significant public attention. Most people, unlike dry cleaners, just don’t deal with environmental contamination as part of their daily life. For example, most people don’t think that their neighborhood gas station is involved with an environmental cleanup, but almost every gas station has been or is being cleaned up for a carcinogenic chemical called benzene. So, if nobody asks any questions about the investigation, you don’t have to volunteer any answers. However, this doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t be prepared with a public relations plan.

What should you do if you need to make a public statement?

If you find yourself needing to respond to public relation inquiries or questions, you need a positive message and you need to bring your employees on board with that message. You’ll also need to acknowledge that past dry cleaning practices were different than they are today. It’s true that in the old days most people didn’t even think PERC was harmful to people or the environment, and spent filters may have been placed in trash bins, or spills may have been washed into the sewer or storm drain–don’t go into detail about the old practices. Instead acknowledge old practices and let them know what you’re doing to address the issue. You want to give them a warm feeling about you.

Make An Honest Statement

Depending on where you are at in the environmental process, an example message could be: “In the past, PERC was not considered harmful and older machines weren’t really designed to be as protective of the environment as they are today. We are taking the necessary measures to investigate the potential contamination and will be proactive in addressing the situation.” If you’ve conducted an environmental investigation that confirms PERC contamination, go on to tell them that a small amount of PERC was found in the soil and/or groundwater and that you are working with the regulatory agency to make sure there are no impacts to people or the environment. If you know you are going to conduct environmental remediation, state that you are working with the regulatory agency to restore the soil and/or groundwater to levels that protect people and the environment. You may want to enroll the assistance of your regulatory agency project manager. Most regulatory agency staff understand the hardships that small business owners face when dealing with environmental investigations and will gladly work with you to present complicated technical issues in a down to earth and unthreatening manner.

Learn how Mercury Cleaners shared their environmental cleanup with their customers.

Create A Fact Sheet

In some states, a fact sheet may be required to be sent to all residents living within a given area of your property. It is best if you can be involved with the creation of the fact sheet language. The fact sheet should have the following information:

  1. A discussion about the contamination and what is known;
  2. A description of planned work and technical reports;
  3. Contact information for you, your consultant and the regulatory agency representative;
  4. Where reports can be found about the site; and
  5. A location map identifying the site and the surrounding neighborhood.

In addition, the fact sheet should be published by the agency or be put on the agency’s letterhead to show that it came from an official source. Your employees should also be briefed and told to direct any questions to you. It would be a good idea to have copies of the fact sheet at your place of business in case your customers are curious. As your investigation progresses, the fact sheet should be updated and highlight the progress made to solve the problem along with the future work schedule for cleanup of the contamination.

An Example of a Dry Cleaner Being Proactive

Dry cleaners could make a really big splash by inviting the media to cover the story. One of EnviroForensics’ clients was very high profile and is a success story of a dry cleaner who turned their environmental cleanup into good PR.

The dry cleaner invited a newspaper to cover the environmental remediation of his property. A journalist showed up with a photographer and wrote about the progress that was being made to clean up the contamination and the article came out in the Sunday paper as a lead story. The dry cleaner didn’t lose any business because of the contamination, has no threats of lawsuits, and sleeps really well at night. The dry cleaner chose to be proactive instead of reactive and shared the right message of restoring the environment with their customers and the public.

This news story gave the dry cleaner a proactive stance and showed the positive contributions the dry cleaner made by restoring the environment.

Contact EnviroForensics to take control of your public relations and be proactive step with your environmental investigation.

As seen in Cleaner & Launderer

Stephen Henshaw, CEO at EnviroForensics & PolicyFind has over 30+ years of experience and holds professional registrations in numerous states. Henshaw serves as a client manager and technical manager on complex projects involving contaminated and derelict properties, creative litigation, deceased landowners, tax liens, non-performing banknotes, resurrecting defunct companies and cost recovery. Henshaw’s expertise includes a comprehensive understanding of past and current industry and waste handling practices and the fate and transport of chlorinated solvents in soil and groundwater. He has served as a testifying expert for plaintiffs and defendants on high profile cases involving causation and timing of releases, contaminant dispersion, allocation, damages, past costs, and closure estimates. He has a strong knowledge of state and federal regulations, insurance law, RCRA, and CERCLA. He has managed several hundred projects including landfills, solvent and petroleum refineries, foundries, metal plating shops, food processors, dry cleaners, wood treating facilities, chemical distribution facilities, aerospace manufacturing facilities, and transporters and provides strategy instrumental in funding projects and moving them to closure.