City nears the end of laundry lawsuit’s seven-year cycle

[ – 2022.03.23] After tumbling through court cases, mediation and insurance claims the city of Visalia is almost done with its seven-year Mission Linen lawsuit cycle.

The city is planning to spend $1.22 million to clean up contaminated soil below Mineral King Avenue between Santa Fe and Tipton Streets caused by chemicals used in the dry cleaning process.

The cost of the project is being shared with Mission Linen which sued the city in 2015 after being cited for high levels of contamination in the groundwater below its property at 520 W. Mineral King Ave. by the Department of Toxic Substance Control (DTSC) in 2006 and 2010.

The city contends the contamination was caused due to waste from dry cleaning processes conducted at the facility over the course of 50 years. Laundry companies, including Mission, have dumped the chemical into the storm drain since dry cleaning began in 1937 until the practice was ceased in 1986. Mission Linen’s building has been used as a laundry facility since 1937 when Visalia Laundry & Dry Cleaning opened. Visalia Laundry operated there until 1971 when it sold the property to Star Laundry & Dry Cleaning. In 1978, Star sold the property and operations to Mission, where it continues to operate a linen and uniform cleaning service.

Star is no longer in business and there is no evidence that Visalia Laundry and Dry Cleaning used PCE at the Property. Mission discontinued dry cleaning operations and the handling and storage of PCE at the Property in 1983.

“The amount of PCE discharged from the Property, either through PCE-vapor or through the separator wastewater, is unknown,” the court ruled in 2020.

The case went to bench trial in December 2017 and a judge encouraged both sides to negotiate. When the parties were unable to settle the matter, the court split the responsibility and cost down the middle. On Feb. 5, 2019, a U.S. District Court ruled that Mission Linen Supply and the city of Visalia will share 50% of the responsibility and 50% of the future costs of the contamination.

In the judge’s findings, he said it is unlikely that the sanitary sewer lines leaked PCE but that the slope carrying storm water into the sewer was too flat and it could have backed up causing contamination. The judge said testing shows the city knew the level of PCE had exceeded drinking water standards of 5 micrograms per liter at least since 1989. In 1991, the Regional Water Quality Control Board informed the city that PCE contamination from sewers and dry-cleaning activities was a concern based on an incident in the city of Lodi. In 2005, the city’s own master plan identified the need for cleaning the sewer system but was never implemented. The judge also said there is no evidence the city authorized Mission and other laundry services to dump by-products from the dry cleaning process into the storm drain and that the companies were also responsible for any PCE vapor that would have settled in the area around the property and been washed into the storm drains by rainfall. The judge ordered the city and laundry company to split evenly the costs associated with the clean-up of the soil and repairs to the sewer lines to prevent leaks.

1 thought on “City nears the end of laundry lawsuit’s seven-year cycle”

  1. Harold Boucher

    This is bull. The city wants their sewer lines to leake so they don’t get all the water in the sewer plant. Businesses were instructed to connect the dry cleaning equipment to the sewer. I have never know of a dry cleaner that thru P C E in the sewer. It got there thru the drains in the store. The water board staff are the most corrupt lying agency in california. I have been thru this crap and and its a hoax

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