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Doritex pays DEC for cleanup at former dry cleaning site in Cheektowaga

Doritex Corp., an Alden-based uniform supplier, expects to pay an estimated $1 million over the next 30 years to clean up a contaminated Genesee Street dry cleaning site where the company owner’s father got his start in 1955, Doritex announced Wednesday.

The former Doro’s Dry Cleaners site in the 3400 block of Genesee Street, near a Union Road shopping plaza and a neighborhood of homes, was found to be contaminated with unsafe levels of common dry cleaning chemicals including chlorinated solvents like tetrachloroethylene and its by-products trichloroethene, vinyl chloride and dichloroethene.

In 2010, the state Department of Environmental Conservation listed the Genesee Street site as hazardous and subsequently determined it presented “a significant threat to public health or the environment.” It was listed as a state Superfund site.

Tetrachloroethylene, which is also known as “PERC,” is classified as “probably carcinogenic” by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and is also known to cause developmental, neurological and respiratory harm.

The DEC’s investigation revealed contaminants extended into soil, groundwater and indoor air at the site and even affected a nearby neighborhood on Colden Court.

It found the chemical on the site’s soil below the water table at concentrations 2,000 times higher that what’s considered safe for groundwater. Although environmentally harmful, that’s not believed to be a significant threat to human health.

“People are not drinking the contaminated groundwater because the area is served by a public water supply that is not affected by this contamination,” according to a DEC statement on the issue.

The DEC statement said people could be exposed to contamination at the Doro’s site “by digging into and handling the soil or otherwise disturbing the existing cover and through inhalation of volatile chemicals in the soil.”

In at least one nearby home, indoor air quality was being affected by chemical vapor intrusion through the soil into the basement. A depressurization system was installed to fix the problem.

Several other nearby homes did not show harmful levels of the chemical.

Last month, Doritex Corp. paid the DEC $491,000 to cover all of the costs associated with the cleanup to date.

Company officials said its payments are voluntary and added Doritex began negotiations with DEC to clean-up the site even though it never owned the Doro’s Dry Cleaners property.

“Standards were far different in the ‘50s when my dad was involved with the business, and I just felt it was a family legacy and responsibility to take care of this unfortunate situation,” said James J. Doro, president of Doritex. “DEC is doing its job, and we’re stepping up to do what’s right.”

Doritex was started in 1972 by Doro’s founder, Alfred Doro, and his sons as an off-shoot of the Genesee Street dry cleaning business.

It has grown into a business with $11 million in annual sales.

The dry cleaning business eventually closed after Alfred Doro’s 1998 death.

The company, which solicited a local environmental engineer to draw up plans for the cleanup, explained the site will be remediated through a combination of siphoning contaminants from the soil and water and treating them at the surface and injecting retardants into areas of deeper contamination, to neutralize the toxic chemicals and make the site safe.

Initial DEC plans called for an excavation of the contamination, but Doritex said those were scrapped because of concerns the former dry cleaning building might collapse.

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