The state Dry Cleaning Establishment Remediation Fund is now meeting twice per year with dry cleaners to update them on how their money, which comes from a surcharge on their receipts, is being spent to decontaminate their stores.
At the first meeting, dry cleaners didn't always agree with state administrators in charge of the program.
Most dry cleaners used to use a toxic cleaning solvent called perchloroethylene, that can go deep into the soil and groundwater when spilled, even in minor amounts.
Back in the 90s, dry cleaners set up a fund to aid in the cleanup of these contaminated sites, funded by one percent of their gross dry cleaning receipts.
But years later, many dry cleaners, including Gail Reiner say they’re still waiting to see that money.
“We’re not on some list that we can see and understand and understand when somebody comes ahead of us, why?” said Reiner.
The state has made a number of stumbles along the way, first, during the recession when it swept $500,000 of the dry cleaners’ money into Connecticut’s general fund. It's also had trouble collecting the gross receipts surcharge from every dry cleaner.
Fund administrators now say dry cleaners applying for decontamination money who have failed to put gross receipts surcharges into the fund are getting taken off the list for decontamination, but Tim Sullivan with the Department of Economic and Community Development says that alone won’t solve the problem.
“The challenge is the amount of funding available versus how much is needed, is going to persist," Sullivan explained. "So it could be a long period of time... for these new applications.”
The fund’s Web site says it could take years, in fact. And as of June 1, the state has accumulated more than $4,000,000 of funding, with 16 projects on the wait list.
But that amount does not cover both the dry cleaner decontaminations that are ready to go, and the ones already underway.
Each project can cost updwards of $300,000, the maximum amount covered by the state fund covers. The rest is on the dry cleaning businesses.