Home Green biz EPA proposes the addition of a Georgetown site tied to dry cleaning agents to the Superfund list

EPA proposes the addition of a Georgetown site tied to dry cleaning agents to the Superfund list


The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) proposed that a Georgetown site be added to the Superfund List.

The announcement came as the EPA added 12 sites to the Superfund National Priorities List.

“No community deserves to have contaminated sites near where they live, work, play, and go to school. Nearly two out of three of the sites being proposed or added to the priorities list are in overburdened or underserved communities,” said EPA Administrator Michael S. Regan. “EPA is building a better America by taking action to clean up some of the nation’s most contaminated sites, protect communities’ health, and return contaminated land to safe and productive reuse for future generations.”


Thousands of contaminated sites, from landfills, processing plants to manufacturing facilities, exist nationally due to hazardous waste being dumped, left out in the open, or otherwise improperly managed.

EPA is proposing that Georgetown North Groundwater be added to the list.

The Georgetown North Groundwater site is a groundwater plume – an area of groundwater that has been polluted by a contaminant release at a concentration above the laboratory reporting limit. 

The area encompasses approximately one-square-mile under commercial and residential areas in the Sussex County Seat town.

While the public drinking water in Georgetown meets state and federal standards, the groundwater is contaminated with the solvent tetrachloroethylene (PCE) and its breakdown products. PCE sometimes referred to as perc, is an organic chemical introduced into the environment by commercial and industrial operations, such as solvents used by dry cleaning activities. EPA considers PCE as likely to be carcinogenic to humans.

The groundwater plume has two known former dry-cleaning sources – Georgetown Dry Cleaners and Thoro-Kleen Dry Cleaners. Plumes from these two facilities appear to have co-mingled and contributed to the contamination of municipal groundwater wells in Georgetown, an EPA release stated.

“If finalized, today’s proposed listing will enable us to continue our joint work, to investigate and remediate the contamination in the Georgetown area,” said EPA Mid-Atlantic Regional Administrator Adam Ortiz. “While the Georgetown Water Department is effectively treating the water supply, additional cleanup of the groundwater will maintain safe drinking water and protect human health and the environment in this community for many years to come.”

The state of Delaware began its investigation into potential sources when the water authority reported contaminants in the untreated water in 1985. The state has previously conducted response actions at both the Georgetown Cleaners and Thoro-Kleen Dry Cleaners to remove storage tanks above and below ground.

Groundwater was not addressed during these tank removal activities at either property. The town uses groundwater wells as the primary source of drinking water in this area. In addition, Georgetown upgraded its water treatment plant in 2017 to remove the contaminants and currently meets all federal and state health standards for drinking water.

The state of Delaware referred the site to EPA in 2016 to assist in more fully characterizing the extent of the groundwater contamination. As a result, the state agreed with the  EPA’s decision to list the Georgetown North Groundwater site to the NPL.

When EPA proposes to add a site to the NPL, the agency publishes the proposed rule in the Federal Register. It notifies the community through the local media so interested community members can comment on the proposal.  

There will be a 60-day comment period from March 18 – to May 17, 2022, where the public can comment on the listing of the Georgetown North Groundwater site. EPA will consider those comments in the final decision on listing the site on the NPL. EPA will also hold a public information session during the comment period to explain the Superfund process to the community. 

If the site qualifies for cleanup under Superfund after the formal comment period, the agency will publish a final rule in the Federal Register, and Georgetown North Groundwater will become a Superfund Site. EPA would then conduct a more comprehensive investigation of the  Site, to determine the full nature and extent of contamination and examine potential remedies. 

 More information about the proposal can be found at: www.epa.gov/superfund/georgetowngroundwater