Dear Mr. F,

We have found the nicest investment property right in our hometown, but our attorney is concerned about the fact that there used to be a drycleaner in this store. It has been over 30 years since it operated at “our” location, shouldn’t that be long enough ago to not be concerned?

Betty F.


Dear Betty,

Your attorney is giving you sage advice. It was commonplace for drycleaning operations to dispose of excess cleaning fluid by simply pouring it into the driveways or streets outside the store. The resultant “Perc” is considered an environmental hazard, it degrades by “natural attenuation” very slowly and not only is the “Perc” a hazard that can pollute drinking water, it also may emanate vapors that can seep through the flooring into the store.

We strongly suggest that you find a licensed environmental professional to assess the site [this will often include a Phase 1 report to identify if there is a likelihood of a spill [extremely likely if one had a drycleaning operation], and suggest certain areas on [and maybe around] the property for soil sampling. Further, many states have regulatory language that deems such sites as areas of concern and subject to various sorts of conveyance terms – something you can find doing some online research, but given the potential ramification, we recommend retaining specialized counsel to advise you.

Sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but of course it is better to be forewarned than to scramble to correct.

Best of luck in all of your ventures,

Brian Fielding