Removing pollution improves Pearl Cleaners and historic neighbor

EnviroForensics is carefully locating and removing groundwater and vapor pollution in a location important to Southwest Indiana’s history.

EnviroForensics’ client, Pearl Laundry & Cleaners, is the oldest business in Evansville that is located in a building still being used for its original purpose. The main cleaning plant for Pearl Laundry was built near downtown Evansville in 1912. It is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Its neighbor has been there even longer; just across a parking lot sits a house also designated as a National Historic Place, where its former owner, Willard Carpenter, ran a station on the Underground Railroad during the Civil War. Today, it’s still a vibrant facility, owned and operated by public broadcasting station WNIN. EnviroForensics’ work extended under the building.

Pearl Cleaners, WNIN and the Carpenter Home share a geographic location, positions in Evansville history and a commitment to improving the quality of life in Evansville, Indiana’s third largest city. (Pearl Cleaners, the Carpenter Home and a third historic neighbor, the 1885 Willard Library established by Carpenter, all are listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The Willard Library is the oldest library in Indiana. It was not involved in the EnviroForensics project.)

Pearl Cleaners’ owner Bernie Michel acted on his commitment to his neighbors. Realizing that the ground under Pearl Cleaners was possibly contaminated by an old dry cleaning chemical that had been used for 45 years up until 1995, Michel asked EnviroForensics, Inc. to evaluate his property.

EnviroForensics found levels of PCE (commonly called “perc”) in the ground — and threatening the ground water — under the Pearl plant. EnviroForensics also detected the effects of the contamination, in the form of vapor intrusion, in WNIN’s building. EnviroForensics worked with Vapor Protection Services — a nationally-recognized vapor mitigation company and certified woman-owned business — to install a complicated venting system within the nearly-170-year-old structure of WNIN’s building to ensure all occupants are protected from potentially harmful vapors. EnviroForensics is working with the Indiana Department of Environmental Management (IDEM) for approval of its final PCE remediation plan and will install the remediation system in the spring and summer of 2015.

Even better news for Michel; cleaning the air and ground is costing Pearl Cleaners almost nothing. PolicyFind, a company owned by EnviroForensics, found old insurance policies that paid for almost all the work.

“I’m very happy with the results of the work EnviroForensics is doing for us,” says Michel. “They are doing everything they say and we hardly know they are here. Our property, and the properties around us, are in better shape than they have been for decades.”

Jennifer Hallgarth, EnviroForensics’ senior project manager on the site, says “Our number-one job is to remove contamination and return a client’s property into an asset. I went to school to do this, and working on a piece of history is icing on the cake! It is very rewarding to work on a project with such history; and the folks at WNIN have been absolutely cooperative with us. We are stewards of the land, and it feels great to be part of history — past, present and future.”

A further note: Vapor Protection Services employed a former coal miner to lay the piping (for the vapor venting system) in three very tight crawl spaces under the WNIN building. “His help was crucial,” says Hallgarth, “in helping us mitigate the vapors.”

Also, the outside piping was matched to color for historic property requirements, as requested by WNIN.

Background facts:

EnviroForensics investigates and cleans soil and groundwater pollution and assesses and removes harmful vapors that may intrude into commercial workspaces. Its affiliate company, PolicyFind, Inc., locates old insurance policies that may help business owners pay for extensive pollution abatement and control. Enviroforensics and PolicyFind are based in Indianapolis.

Reach Enviroforensics and PolicyFind at (317) 972-7870, and

Pearl Laundry & Cleaners (The Rust & Korb Laundry Co.) was established in 1896 by Jacob Rust and Daniel A. Korb. It moved into its present main facility in 1912, when Rust and Korb finished construction of the Pearl Steam Laundry building (on Second Avenue; later Market Street; presently NW 3rd Street). Pearl Laundry & Cleaners currently operates nine locations, including its main plant, in and around Evansville. The main plant is designated as a National Historic Place.

Completed in 1849, Willard Carpenter House also is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. It is one of the finest examples of pure Georgian architecture in the Tri-State (Indiana, Kentucky, Illinois) area. Built of brick and stone, it features a balanced, classic facade over the entrance door. The Carpenter House was used as an Underground Railroad Station for fleeing slaves during the Civil War. Restored in 1974 to as close to its original condition as possible, the home stands as a memorial to one of Evansville’s most aggressive and influential pioneers. (Evansville Convention & Visitors’ Bureau)

WNIN-TV was founded in 1972 by an independent non-profit, community owned corporation. Its radio affiliate went on the air in 1982. WNIN-TV and Radio purchased the Williard Chapman home for its studio and offices in 1986. The stations are affiliated with the Public Broadcasting System and National Public Radio.