What does the insurance asset portfolio look like for your drycleaning business?



We’ve seen a number of adjustments within the drycleaning industry over the years. Many drycleaners are adding new and convenient services for their customers, some have consolidated their shops to either merge with other businesses to expand their footprint or to focus on routes out of one location, and some have decided to close their doors altogether.

Due to these changes in plans, we have seen an uptick in drycleaners addressing environmental contamination due to an increase in real estate and business transactions. With this uptick, we’ve also seen an increase in demand for PolicyFind’s insurance archeology services.

Insurance archeology is the process of locating and reconstructing historical insurance coverage to find funds that help pay for environmental cleanup and legal defense against liabilities. A full insurance archeology review has historically been a more expensive endeavor for drycleaners. However, this investment can ultimately help offset hundreds of thousands and even millions of dollars in environmental cleanup costs and legal fees.

In response to a need from the drycleaning industry to reduce the cost for insurance archeology, we have created a new service line called Insurance Archeology Express (IAX) which provides our clients an expedited baseline insurance research product. It is a faster and more affordable first step that helps our insurance archeologists determine the likelihood that a full insurance archeology service will yield insurance coverage for liability issues, such as environmental contamination. IAX is a great option for many drycleaners because it will give you an idea of whether a full insurance archeology could be successful.

Here are two scenarios from drycleaners we’ve worked with recently.

I worked with a drycleaning client who had five locations, four of which had historically been perc drycleaning plants at one point in their existence. Many of them had been plants back in the 60s and 70s, and all but one had eventually transitioned into drop stores. All of these locations had been owned by various operators prior to our client taking them over. As he was looking to refinance his properties, he realized that he was going to need to conduct environmental due diligence to satisfy his lender and that this was likely going to open some environmental issues for him. He understood that even if he put the refinance on hold, this was still going to be the case in the future should he go to sell, so he decided it was in his best interest to start now.

Since conducting a full insurance archeology on each of the four locations would have been expensive, we conducted an IAX search on each. We were able to determine that three of his four sites were good candidates for full insurance archeology. This meant that the baseline research conducted by our insurance archeologists determined that there were enough paths that could lead to evidence of insurance. For the fourth site, it was determined that while former owners and historic operational history was identified, no clear paths to insurance were. With this information, our client decided to pursue full insurance archeology on those three sites.

Another IAX client is a drycleaner who recently was notified by their state’s environmental regulatory agency that contamination was found migrating onto a neighboring property. The client was given a short deadline for providing the state with their plan for beginning investigation into environmental contamination as well as addressing any immediate vapor intrusion concerns at nearby properties. This drycleaner had been operating at their location since the 1970s but was unable to produce any old business records for review. They were concerned with committing to a full insurance archeology search because they were on a limited budget and were on such a short deadline. Similar to the first scenario, our insurance archeologists were able to show that there were a number of avenues to pursue that could provide evidence of insurance.

Do either of these scenarios sound similar to your situation? The desire to know if there may be funding before committing 100% makes total sense and our IAX offering is our way of providing that snapshot into your unique insurance asset situation.

In addition, all IAX clients who want to take the next steps to further research and to reconstruct historical coverage, the cost of IAX can apply to the cost of PolicyFind’s insurance archeology services. It should also be noted that IAX is a very specific service line and we recommend that you talk with our insurance archeologists to determine whether IAX is a fit for you. There are some situations in which this service line may not be practical and there may be other options that would better suit you.

If you find yourself in a time crunch, interested in having a better sense of what your odds will be before you enter into a full insurance archeology agreement, IAX may be the perfect solution for you.

Contact us today to review your drycleaning business’s scenario with insurance archeology and environmental service experts.

Dru Shields, 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.

Employee Spotlight: Nick Hill


EnviroForensics Senior Project Manager, Nick Hill, LPG is a reliable organizer and team player. The Ohio Wesleyan University graduate has worked his way up through the ranks of EnviroForensics in the last decade and has overseen successful environmental investigation and remediation projects for a variety of different clients from the drycleaning, manufacturing, and real estate industries.  

Nick’s ability to manage multiple complex projects while providing a clear line of communication to his project teams from the project manager to field personnel has made him an indispensable leader. “Nick keeps his promises, which is the backbone of any project team duo. Nick keeps it real, and holds project team members and himself accountable, which is the true sign of a good senior project manager.” 

Read further to learn more about Nick inside and outside of EnviroForensics. 


ANSWER: I am from the Dayton, OH area and graduated from Ohio Wesleyan University in 2004 with a BA in Geology. Since accepting a Staff position at Enviro, over 9 years ago now, I have climbed the company ladder to Senior PM. Prior to that, I got my hands dirty working in California and parts of the east coast performing environmental UST testing in 2004/2005 and subsequently working in the field at another consulting firm for over 6 years.   

A: I was not expecting it and really appreciate the gesture. It is an honor to be singled out of a group of so many high caliber peers. A very humble thanks to all because I really couldn’t do my job or be where I am today without the support of everyone. 

A: I can’t say enough about the people and the supportive atmosphere and environment here at EnviroForensics. I truly rely on the strengths of others every day and it’s great to work with such willing and able peers. Having come from a larger company where employees were hardly recognized or supported, it has been very refreshing to find and be with a company that truly looks to find ways to put employees first. 

A: Right now, I am enjoying working with Director of Commercial Real Estate, Casey McFall on Phase I assessments. It’s fast-paced work and fun to learn about the histories of different properties across Indiana and other states.    

A: Outside of work, life revolves pretty heavily around family with my wife, Emily, and our 2 girls Claire (soon to be 10) and Audra (7) in Martinsville. With the COVID situation and Emily teaching, I have become Mr. Mom at home these days getting the kids ready/through online school. I am still following soccer, though not able to play anymore after 2 knee surgeries in 2017, and I am a big supporter of Liverpool FC in England. On warmer days, I like working out in the yard and playing disc golf. On others, I mostly enjoy quiet evenings at home binge-watching Netflix or catching up on the latest soccer matches with a good beer or bourbon. 

What is the chemical nature of perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) compounds?



The 2019 release of the film Dark Waters told the true story of the legal action taken by a farmer and an attorney to hold DuPont accountable for damages allegedly caused by perfluoroalkyl compounds, otherwise known as the forever chemicals. But even without this movie, perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) compounds have been in the news. What are PFAS and why is there so much attention on them? PFAS are a family of diverse chemical compounds developed in the 1940s, that were found to be useful in a wide range of commercial products including water and stain repellent coatings on cookware, firefighting foams, and in industrial applications for cardboard coatings, and mist suppression for metal plating to name a few. Many industries include textile and leather manufactures, paper manufactures, metal plating industries, wire manufacturing, industrial surfactants, photo-lithography, airports, and firefighting, were quick to incorporate these compounds into their processes. So why are PFAS an evolving issue? The short answer is:

  • Their widespread use in industrial and consumer products;
  • Their suspected toxicity (very low proposed cleanup standards);
  • Their persistence in the environment; and
  • Their resistance to treatment technologies.

PFAS present a challenge to industry, regulators and scientists who are racing to understand the significance of these compounds in the environment. This is an emerging situation and work is proceeding on multiple fronts to address the concerns.

There are six things that must be considered when figuring out how to address PFAS:

  1. Evaluation of emerging toxicology data
  2. Evaluation of developing testing methods
  3. Evaluation of developing cleanup methods
  4. Developing regulations
  5. Understanding how prevalent these compounds are
  6. Under fate and transport in the environment

To learn more, read “What are PFAS compounds and how can we test for them?”

Although there are thousands of PFAS compounds, at their core, they are characterized by having carbon and fluorine bonds, one of the strongest bonds in organic chemistry. These compounds come in various carbon chain lengths, which effect the fate and transport in the environment, their resonance time in the food chain, and ultimately the human body and their subsequent cleanup criteria. Once you understand the nomenclature, you can tell a lot from the compounds name. Two of the most manufactured PFAS compounds were perfluorooctanesulfonic acid (PFOS) and perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA).

PFOS      PF (Perfluoro=fully fluorinated carbons) O (Octa or 8 carbon chain) S (Sulfonic Acid)


PFOA     PF (Perfluoro=fully fluorinated carbons) O (Octa or 8 carbon chain) A (Carboxcylic Acid)


Like the compounds above, most PFAS compounds have a hydrophilic head (acid, alcohol, etc.) and a hydrophobic tail (carbon-fluoride chain). This dual nature of the compounds imparts much of the non-stick, water repellant, stain repellant properties that made them so useful in industrial applications. The carbon-fluoride bonds make PFAS compounds incredibly stable and resistant to breakdown. Hence the name “forever chemicals”. Most organic compounds would break down in a landfill, be degraded by natural bacteria, or be treated by a wastewater treatment plant, whereas PFAS compounds are generally resistant to these degradation processes. These compounds pass through most treatment systems intact to be discharged back into the environment. Their widespread use in products and their resistance to breakdown (or treatment) means that they may be widespread in the environment. While we do not know how prevalent these compounds are in the environment, we do know that wherever we look for PFAS, we are finding them.

Learn more about how federal and state governments are regulating PFAS for drycleaners and other small businesses.

The toxicological data indicates that low level concentrations of some PFAS compounds may affect liver function, impede immunological response, promote developmental effects, decrease fertility, increase hypertension and potentially cause testicular and kidney cancers. The toxicity of PFOS and PFOA are probably the most studied and most understood. However, the chemical toxicity for a majority of PFAS and GenX (PFAS replacement chemicals) compounds have not been studied. Early indications are that most cleanup levels for these compounds will be in the one part per trillion-part (ppt) range, which is equivalent to one ping pong ball in a sea of a trillion ping pong balls.

If you have any questions about PFAS, including the chemistry, regulations, remediation or how to fund PFAS cleanup and legal defense, please contact us

The low cleanup levels come with their own set of challenges. How do you test for one part per trillion (ppt) of a compound in a water sample when the notebook, raincoat or sunscreen your personnel is wearing was manufactured with PFAs? The answer is you must be careful and beware of false positives. Currently there are two validated USEPA analytical methods SW 846 Method 537.1 and Method 533, both of which are for drinking water. There are no adopted USEPA methods for non-drinking water and soil, although modified methods do exist.  Analytical methods still need to be developed and commercial laboratories will need to invest in equipment and processes to analyze this emerging contaminant. Currently there are a limited number of laboratories qualified to test for PFAs.

The regulatory environment for PFAs is a patchwork, as some states have been quick to establish a regulatory framework while most are waiting for the United States Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) to take the lead. Several states have gotten out in front of the USEPA and have either tested water supply wells like Michigan or are beginning to require contaminated sites to include PFAs on their analyte lists. To date, the USEPA has concentrated on two of the most manufactured PFA compounds, PFOS and PFOA. While the USEPA is concentrating on a smaller subset of the PFA compounds, some states like Wisconsin are requiring evaluation of a much larger number (16) of PFA compounds at sites.

The U.S. EPA currently has a task group which is evaluating the PFAs issue. One of the first hurdles of this task group is to set drinking water maximum contaminate levels (MCLs) that will apply to suppliers of potable water. These drinking water standards are expected to be published in 2021 or 2022. This will mean that any supplier of water from groundwater or surface water source will begin testing for these compounds and if found will need to treat them. Similar testing of water supply wells in some states have led to the identification of PFA release sites.

More important to you perhaps is what do you do if a regulating entity asks you to sample your site for PFAs? Before you respond, there are some questions you need to ask yourself.

  • Under what authority is the regulator requiring PFAs testing?
  • Specifically, which of the PFAs chemicals are you required to test for?
  • How low is the concentration we need to look for?
  • If I generate a concentration for a PFAs compound to what standards will it be compared?

What you should not do is rush into a sampling event without much consideration. Additional information regarding regulatory framework for PFAS will be provided in upcoming Blog posts.

Traditionally, environmental cleanups have involved either the physical removal of the contaminant from the environment, immobilization of contaminants and/or the biologically or chemical destruction of the contaminant in place.

Physical Contaminant Removal
PFAS can be remediated by physical removal. This entails excavation of soil and/or the pumping of groundwater followed by their concentration onto various sorbent materials.  Both processes create impacted wastes that still require disposal, storage or destruction.

While excavation is an effective way of removing soil contaminant mass, its use is often limited by depth of impacts, presence of groundwater, presence of building structures, cost effectiveness, and potential long-term liability for waste generated. Wastes placed into modern lined landfills typically decompose and combine with water to form leachate. This leachate migrates to collection systems in the bottom of the landfills, which is treated and then ultimately discharged back into the environment. Based on their stability in the environment, PFAS have the potential to migrate untreated through the landfill and through the wastewater treatment plant to be discharged back into the environment. As landfills become more cognizant of the issues surrounding PFAS there is some question as to their willingness/ability to except these waste streams. Ultimately these wastes constitute a potential long-term liability unless the contaminant is ultimately destroyed. High temperature incineration of PFAS derived wastes is one way of permanently destroying these compounds; however, there are issues of the high costs of incineration and potential for incomplete combustion of these compounds.

One industry leader TRS Group has a patent for a thermal remediation system that heats soil (in situ or ex situ) to between 350 to 400 degrees C, which drives off PFA compounds in the vapor phase. The vapor phase is recovered and then either thermally oxidized or the PFAs are condensed and treated in the aqueous phase[1].

Contaminant Immobilization
Sometimes the goal of a remediation is less about reduction of contaminants and more about ensuring that contaminants do not migrate to potential sensitive receptors. The concept of immobilizing contaminants in-place to prevent migration is nothing new and has been employed for years at sites with metal contaminants. One method that is being studied for PFAs is the injection of colloidal activated carbon (CAC) into aquifers to provide sites for PFA sorption. While the sorption mitigates the migration of contaminants to downgradient receptors, actual contaminant mass remains unaffected. The longevity of these subsurface sorption barriers and their ability to hold the PFAs indefinitely, is currently being studied.

Biological or Chemical Destruction
For cleanup of sites impacted with petroleum and/or chlorinated solvents, for years scientists and engineers have made full use of the fact that these organic compounds, are subject to both abiotic (chemical) and biotic (bacterial, fungal, etc.) mediated breakdown into less toxic byproducts. These processes, either with or without augmentation, are employed to reduce contaminant mass in place, without the need for physical removal and ex situ treatment.  These remediation techniques have become popular since they are cost effective, less disruptive to infrastructure, and do not generate legacy wastes. By their nature, PFA compounds appear to be resistant to these processes; however, the jury is still out and this an active field of research. Currently these methods are in the realm of college research papers and experimental cleanups at defense and superfund sites and are not options for most sites.

What should you do if you are potential responsible party in a PFA release? First and foremost, take a deep breath. It is important that you choose a consultant like EnviroForensics who will carefully listen to all the details of your situation and consider your potential liabilities, regulatory, financial and investigation options. With the science and regulations rapidly evolving around PFA issues, it is important to know the landscape before charging ahead. One thing is very clear however, there will be greater and greater regulation of these chemicals and their subsequent release to the environment. Hopefully, the science and technology to address these unique chemicals can developed to meet these challenges. Stay tuned for additional articles on this subject

Learn more about our environmental investigation and remediation services.

Brad Lewis, CHMM, Principal Scientist at EnviroForensics

Brad Lewis is a detailed-oriented and collaborative leader with 30+ years of environmental consulting experience that covers a variety of projects ranging from due diligence, environmental compliance, landfill, Brownfields, underground storage tank, and chlorinated hydrocarbon investigations and cleanups. As Principal Scientist, he oversees investigations and cleanups. He helps project teams set the technical and regulatory strategies that will meet their client’s goals. Lewis has implemented many innovative site investigation strategies including the use of down-hole sensing equipment, mobile laboratory, and an immunoassay to characterize sites.

He has consulted on many high-profile projects dealing with petroleum hydrocarbons, polychlorinated biphenyls, hexavalent chromium, chlorinated solvents, bedrock impacts, vapor intrusion investigations, and vapor mitigation.

[1] Crownover E, Oberle D, Kluger M, Heron . Perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances thermal desorption evaluation.  Remediation 2019;29:77-81