Industrial Laundry Company to Pay $1.8 M for VOCs

Attorney General Richard Blumenthal and Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) Commissioner Amey Marrella said that G&K Services Co. will pay $1.8 million in a settlement related to the emissions of toxic substances in Waterbury, Conn.

Blumenthal sued the company in 2008 on behalf of DEP and won an order blocking the company from laundering soiled shop towels contaminated with various solvents, oils and greases that contain volatile organic compounds (VOCs).

According to the DEP press release, G&K had violated its permits and state regulations by failing to install proper pollution control equipment on its washers and failing to obtain required permits for the construction and operation of its industrial dryers, which are considered a stationary source of air pollution.

G&K's industrial dryers have the potential to emit more than 50 tons of VOCs annually. Such facilities, if properly controlled, may be allowed to release small amounts of these chemicals that – when mixed with outdoor air at proper height – will not create a public health risk.

The company's industrial laundry facility in Waterbury cleans uniforms, floor mats, mops, garments, linens, continuous roll towels, and dust products. An April 2008 court order blocked G&K from laundering shop and print towels at its Connecticut locations. According to DEP, the company has continued to collect shop towels from customers at the Waterbury site and trucked the towels to an out-of-state laundering facility. Until the company meets legal standards and obtains proper permits, it is prohibited from laundering shop and print towels at the Waterbury facility.

The settlement provides $1.189 million in penalties to the state General Fund; $111,000 to the DEP for unpaid fees; and $500,000 to the City of Waterbury for environmental projects reviewed and approved by DEP to benefit Waterbury citizens.

Blumenthal said, "Even more than the money, this settlement stops G&K from laundering industrial towels in Connecticut until it strictly adheres to state anti-pollution regulations."

Within 30 days of the judgment, G&K will retain TRC Companies, Inc., a qualified consultant, to assist in preparing applications and documents and overseeing the company's efforts to comply with their agreement and environmental obligations, including obtaining necessary permits, record keeping, reporting, monitoring and testing. If G&K eventually obtains proper permits to launder shop and print towels in the future, the consultant must monitor and inspect the operations for at least three years.

In a press release from G&K, the company reassured shareholders that the payment will not affect its third-quarter earnings. In addition, the company said it "cooperated fully with the DEP to resolve this matter" but "disagrees with many of the substantive characterizations and other allegations made related to this settlement. The agreed-upon settlement amount is based, in large part, on hypothetical worst-case scenarios of potential emissions, rather than any actual emissions from the facility. As such, there is no actual evidence of harm involving G&K's Waterbury operations," the company stated.

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