National Clothesline
Vermont tests child care sites for drycleaning chemicals
In what they are describing as precautionary and proactive testing, Vermont environmental
officials are assessing child care facilities near drycleaning sites to see if there are any
contamination concerns.
The state identified seven child care facilities within 200 feet of former or current
drycleaning sites out of a total of 420 such sites statewide.
The Vermont Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) is leading the assessment
and air quality testing in coordination with the Department of Health and the Department for
Children and Families.
The DEC said that chemicals associated with drycleaning can seep into the ground if not
stored or disposed of properly and move from the ground into the air of buildings through the
Air pockets in the soil beneath the building of each child care facility will be tested for
drycleaning chemicals. If the levels of chemicals in the soil gas are high, the indoor air of the
child care facility will be tested.
If indoor air levels are high, more steps will be taken. Steps may include more testing or
installing a mitigation system to keep the chemicals from getting into the air.
Under state law, the owner of a current or former drycleaning property may be responsible
for covering the costs, but the state’s Environmental Contingency fund will be used to pay
upfront costs for sampling and mitigation if the owner cannot or is unwilling to cover the
State officials said there have been no reported cases of illnesses linked to this issue and
there have not been any issues reported with any of the children’s programs being tested.
All seven child care and preschool facilities are open and operating as usual and officials
said there is no need to keep children home from their child care or preschool program where
the assessments are happening.
Department of Health State Toxicologist Sarah Vose said it is unclear at this point what the
testing may find, and that collecting this data is a first step to understand what chemicals, if
any, may be present.
“Just like with any other chemical that could be present in our drinking water or the air we
breathe, the first step is to collect data to understand what chemicals may be present.”
Vose explained that if chemicals are present in the air, depending on the concentration, the
state may recommend that the child care or preschool program relocate to a temporary
facility while the building is treated to remove the chemicals.
In most cases, a sub slab depressurization system will be installed. It is similar to a radon
mitigation system. Once this system is installed, the levels of the chemicals in the air will be
lowered, making it safe to be in the building again.
To ensure that the system is working properly, testing will be required at least each year
until the chemicals in the soil are gone and will no longer get into the indoor air.
“We’ve put in a lot of work to identify the location of drycleaners throughout the state,
including conducting historical research for establishments that have been out of business for
many years or even decades,” said Julie Moore, secretary of the Vermont Agency of Natural
“We are reaching out to child care and preschool programs in close proximity to the
identified drycleaners to test and mitigate any possible risk with as little impact to the
program and their families as possible,” Moore said.