Ann Arbor dry cleaner faces wrecking ball under pollution cleanup plan

Customers come and go from Armen Cleaners at 630 S. Ashley St. in Ann Arbor on July 1, 2021.Ryan Stanton | The Ann Arbor News
[ – 2021.07.02] Plans are in the works to demolish an Ann Arbor dry cleaning business to address a longstanding pollution problem in the soil beneath the building. Armen Cleaners has stood at 630 S. Ashley St. in the Old West Side for decades, but it now faces the wrecking ball so the state can take action to remove contaminated soil, a problem first discovered 36 years ago, officials said.

Releases of a dry-cleaning solvent known as tetrachloroethylene or PCE — a known carcinogen — left the ground polluted decades ago, and in 2016 the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency found high levels of toxic vapor from the migrating plume were getting into a rental house next door.

In cooperation with Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy(EGLE), the city’s staff is now seeking approval from the city’s Historic District Commission to demolish the dry cleaner, which is in the Old West Side Historic District, to allow for environmental remediation.

The building is a non-contributing structure in the historic district, meaning it can be demolished, said City Planner Jill Thacher, the city’s historic preservation coordinator.

EGLE has put together a remediation plan that requires the building to come down and the proposal will go before the Historic District Commission next week, Thacher said.

The property and business owners are on board with the demolition and remediation plan, said Derek Delacourt, the city’s community services administrator. Their participation and approval is necessary for the remediation, he said.

The state is paying for the demolition and cleanup, Delacourt said. As for whether the land could come under city or state ownership, there is no requirement for the owners to sell the site, and there are no plans under consideration at this time for what will replace the dry cleaner, he said.

“Armen Cleaners opened in January of 1946,” Thacher wrote, noting a photo from 1947 shows the building at half its current width, with houses to both the north and south.

Improper handling of waste by the dry cleaning business was first documented in 1985 when releases of PCE to soil and groundwater were discovered, and throughout the 1990s, 2000s and 2010s there were several additional investigations to define the extent of the problem, according to EGLE.

In 2020, feasibility and cost analysis for several remediation options were evaluated, according to EGLE. After evaluation and discussions with the city, neighbors and the county, EGLE began planning for a remedial excavation of the source property, the dry cleaner.

“As currently planned, the remediation will also include two phases of biodegradation treatments of the groundwater to help decrease elevated PCE levels that have migrated off-site,” EGLE stated in a June 2021 report.

The demolition and excavation of contaminated soil at the Armen Cleaners site are expected to take place this fall, according to EGLE.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *