Drycleaners, their devastating impact on our communities that nobody talks about, and a solution - a thread 🧵👇

As a strip mall owner, I've dealt with this issue for 15 years, and I'd like to address it here.

Hope this gets Retweeted so we save lives!

Since the 1930s, the
Chemical known as tetrachloroethylene (PERC, or ‘PCE’), became the most frequently used dry cleaning solvent in the US.

When in-shop machines were invented, and drycleaners could do all the cleaning right there at the strip mall, instead of having to ship clothes
off to a factory.

This is where the problems began, and almost all strip malls that have ever housed a drycleaner plant are now contaminated. Yup, you heard that right.

1)What exactly is PCE?

PCE is a colorless, dense liquid. It dissolves grease in fabric without
damaging it. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has classified PCE as a likely human carcinogen.

It’s been associated with cancers such as non-Hodgkin lymphoma, bladder cancer, multiple myeloma, as well as impaired cognitive and motor neurobehavioral performance, and
countless other nasty outcomes.

(I am going to stop here for a moment and note that (in my opinion) the vast majority of strip malls DO NOT have this issue. This thread refers to strip malls that have had drycleaner plants as tenants at some point)

2)How do we get exposed?
PCE in soil and groundwater evaporates and commonly enters the indoor air of buildings and impacts its occupants. This means that if there was EVER a drycleaner plant at a strip mall, there is a good chance people are breathing in the PCE, even if it was spilled decades ago.
3)Does it ever go away on its own?

No. It is resistant to natural breakdown.

How exactly does it get in the soil and groundwater if it’s supposed to be used only in the dry cleaning machine?

It was very common for the PCE to be improperly disposed of. One shot-glass of PCE
going into a sewer or onto the ground, and the damage has been done. Forever. You can bet that some employee, at some point, didn’t dispose of some small amount properly.

4)How does a small spill cause “forever” damage?

PCE is a heavy chemical. Once it’s spilled, it will
find its way to the soil, and then down to the groundwater. Once it reaches the groundwater, it will flow in the direction of the groundwater, and basically go all over the place (yes, onto someone else’s property as well). It’s much heavier than water and will continue to
sink lower, past the water table.

The liquid then turns into a gas, expands all over the place, and then is released UP into buildings, and into the atmosphere over time.

Yes, this means the chemical is commonly beneath strip malls (and surrounding properties in many cases),
and is slowly making its way back up to the soil, through cracks in the concrete, etc and into the indoor air we breathe.

Here is a diagram that illustrates this, in a nutshell:
5)There are many examples of this in our communities, but the vast majority aren’t discussed.

Here is one example that did make it into the public eye:
6)How do we clean the sites?

There really aren’t great technologies out there that actually clean these sites, and what’s been the most successful has been to completely dig up the area (destroying the properties completely).

I recently spoke to strip mall owner who received
a cleanup estimate of $2.3M! And this is not even a guarantee of the site actually getting cleaned, and does not include costs associated with the contamination of neighboring properties.

7)Why aren’t we aware of all the sites that are contaminated?

The way things currently
work, an owner who is not trying to sell or refinance a property isn’t going to set off any alarms, and if the property is contaminated people are going to keep breathing the PCE chemical in through the indoor air.

Lenders and sophisticated buyers ALWAYS order what’s called
a Phase 1 Environmental report. This basically means a third-party geologist conducts deep historical research to determine if there was EVER a drycleaner plant within a strip mall. They check Sanborn maps, city permits, old directories, etc. If a drycleaner existed, even for
a short period, you probably have an issue.

If it’s determined that a drycleaner plant existed, a “Phase 2” is usually recommended. This means that (for $10k and more, usually), the geologist uses soil borings to essentially suck in and test the “soil gas” beneath the ground
for traces of PCE.

If there was ever a drycleaner plant, you can bet those samples are likley going to come out “hot.”

At this point the owner has a mess on his/her hands.

The geologist then reports the finding to government agency that has the local jurisdiction (this can be
the waterboard, the county, etc.).

Once the agencies get the data, they heavily pressure the owner into addressing the issue, which begins a process which consists of an expensive and often never-ending cat and mouse game.

If you don’t abide by the agency deadlines,
heavy fines can be (and are) imposed.

Trouble is, it’s often physically impossible for the owner to truly solve the problem.

THEREFORE, property owners who suspect or find out they have had a drycleaner plant simply don’t sell or re-finance their property. Their property is
practically worth nothing more than the cashflow it generates, as the cleanup cost can be higher than the asset value. Not to mention potential liability from offsite contamination.

This is a lose-lose for everyone. The tenants and customers are
breathing in PCE, the owner can’t sell the property, it remains contaminated, and a new buyer can’t come in to update the site.

These strip malls just sit there and deteriorate – you’ve seen them.


While true cleanup of a site is nearly impossible, removing
the ongoing danger is very simple!

Installing a simple Soil Vapor Extraction system dramatically reduces the amount of PCE found in the indoor air, and fast.

Very simply put, this consists of placing a few pipes/tubes (wells) in the ground in a few areas, and connecting them
to a vacuum pump. This creates a strong vacuum that pulls air and gas underneath the property and sucks it up through the pipe and safely releases it into the atmosphere.

These machines are not expensive to install, monitor, and maintain, and they have a big and fast impact
on indoor air.

9)A WIN-WIN solution.

Because property owners have no idea what a potential mess they are about to get themselves into by “coming out of hiding,” here is what I propose:
The EPA introduces a PCE Safe Harbor Program --

Any property owner who agrees to install and maintain a vapor extraction system, and to sample and report the indoor air quarterly, is exempt from needing to initiate a cleanup (which is impossible to do anyway)
Let’s save some lives!!

Please ReTweet, and thank you for reading all the way to the end!

*Note – I am not the expert on drycleaners or PCE. If something here is not correct, please point it out, and I will thank you for it. Would love
a debate that will educate us on this issue and how to address it with a win-win solution!
Anyone know any folks in Congress or the EPA they can tag?

• • •

Missing some Tweet in this thread? You can try to force a refresh

Keep Current with StripMallGuy

StripMallGuy Profile picture

Stay in touch and get notified when new unrolls are available from this author!

Read all threads

This Thread may be Removed Anytime!


Twitter may remove this content at anytime! Save it as PDF for later use!

Try unrolling a thread yourself!

how to unroll video
  1. Follow @ThreadReaderApp to mention us!

  2. From a Twitter thread mention us with a keyword "unroll"
@threadreaderapp unroll

Practice here first or read more on our help page!

More from @realEstateTrent

8 Sep
My mentor barely finished high school and built a huge real estate empire which started with him selling shoes at the flea market to help support his family as a child.

He’s got the most brilliant real estate mind I’ve ever come across.

Here are some of his habits:
*He refreshes every listing website at least 100 times a day
*He calls probably 50 brokers a day, in multiple markets
*He knows if a deal is good or not within seconds
*He goes non-refundable day one as often as he can
*He answers his phone 99.9 percent or the time
*He never drops a deal
*He calls people again and again relentlessly if they don’t answer
*He won’t let anyone else get the deal - fights tooth and nail
*He has a great reputation
*He doesn’t talk about money
*He never gets angry
*He never talks bad
Read 5 tweets
6 Sep
I stopped by one of our old strip malls not too long ago, and just sat in my car a bit and reflected.

I recalled what an intense redevelopment project it was for us 10 years ago, and how much time and effort we spent transforming the property from a tired eyesore into the...
vibrant jewel I was staring at that afternoon.

There were families enjoying a nice day on the outdoor patio we spent countless hours planning and negotiating with the tenants over. Both restaurants were packed, and I recalled all the back and forth over who was going...
to pay for the grease traps and whether they would be shared among the tenants or if each would have its own.

The place was now running on all cylinders only because of the many months we spent working with the utility company to design and upgrade the power capacity so we...
Read 7 tweets
31 Aug
Want to buy a strip mall? Here are a few of the things you need to understand first:

Read 5 tweets
25 Aug
Many landlords prefer national chain tenants over a local mom-and-pop business. This can be a huge oversight, a Thread 🧵👇

First – we have made deals with countless national tenants, and in many cases they are a great fit for us. Each situation needs to be examined on a
case-by-case basis, but I think it’s important to shed light on all the great benefits of working with mom-and-pop (family-owned) businesses.

Much of the American economy ticks because of the family-owned businesses that put their heart and soul into making darn sure their
endeavors succeed. Here is why we prefer to go with a solid mom-and-pop over a national in many cases:


Family-owned business: A mom-and-pop business represents a family’s entire livelihood. The business puts food on the table, pays the mortgage, and puts
Read 32 tweets
22 Aug
Paying your landlord rent on your home or apartment isn’t the rip-off your parents and friends tell you it is – a mini Thread 🧵👇

*Preface: There are a ton advantages to buying vs renting, and I am not advocating for one over the other. The purpose of this is to
shed some light on the other side of the coin, which people often don’t consider*

Many of us cringe every time we send our landlord a rent check, agonizing as we think “more money down the toilet.”

The thing is, there are a TON of advantages to renting, and in many cases
renting is the more financially responsible thing to do.

1)Let’s crunch some ballpark numbers:

Let’s say you’re paying $4,000/month to rent a condo that would cost you $1M to buy.

Sure, you’re out $4,000/month, but here are your expenses if you buy:
Read 14 tweets
10 Aug
Becoming a Commercial Real Estate Broker in America and Succeeding, a thread 🧵👇

Real estate is by far the world’s largest asset class, and becoming a broker is a great way to break into the business and begin to gain valuable knowledge that can help you build a lifetime of
real estate wealth.

Here I will focus only on the sale side, and not the leasing.

1)Understanding how the game works – very basic bottom line:

Brokers are paid solely based on commissions – they only make money upon a sale. Effort doesn’t mean anything, only results do.
If you want to get in, you need to convince a broker you can help them do more deals.

The first step is to find a broker who will train you.

2)Find your Mike Tyson broker – the true Superstar (or don’t bother):

If you are only paid based on commission AND you don’t
Read 39 tweets

Did Thread Reader help you today?

Support us! We are indie developers!

This site is made by just two indie developers on a laptop doing marketing, support and development! Read more about the story.

Become a Premium Member ($3/month or $30/year) and get exclusive features!

Become Premium

Too expensive? Make a small donation by buying us coffee ($5) or help with server cost ($10)

Donate via Paypal Become our Patreon

Thank you for your support!

Follow Us on Twitter!