We leverage historical General Liability Policies to fund the costly environmental remediation of dry cleaners for our clients using archival insight and modern expertise.
Dry Cleaners and the Need for Insurance Archaeology Services
Olive trees hold a special place in Greek Mythology. As the story goes: Athena and Poseidon were in competition with one another to bring mankind the greatest gift. Poseidon showed up with a fantastic war horse and Athena delivered an olive tree. The Greeks were so overwhelmed by the versatility and beauty of the olive that they named their capital Athens!
This is where the history of dry cleaning began, in ancient Greece, where olive oil was used throughout Greek life and revered for its utility in food, medicine, fuel, and ceremonial practices.
“From ancient Greek olive oil stains to the introduction of PERC in the 1930s, the evolution of dry cleaning reflects a journey of innovation, risk, and regulatory adaptation in pursuit of safer and more effective cleaning solutions.”
For the next 100 years having your clothes dry cleaned was a bit dodgy. The solvents were highly flammable and shops frequently burned down, endangering proprietors and customers in the process.
These fires and explosions led to the regulation of dry cleaners in the early 20th century and the development of less combustible dry cleaning solvents.
In 1924, William James Stoddard introduced the less flammable Stoddard Solvent. Then, post World War I, more efficient chemical solvents arrived. Early versions of these included trichloroethylene and carbon tetrachloride (TCE), but these were eventually phased out due to their hazardous health effects.
By the 1930s, the industry had settled on tetrachloroethylene (PCE), commonly known as PERC– a remarkable solvent that was non-flammable, effective on most fabrics, stable, and recyclable.
So, problem solved and it only took 2,000 years from Athens to America! Not completely.
Another quality of PCE, TCE, and similar chlorinated solvents were extremely persistent in the environment. If these chlorinated solvents are released they tend to have a very long life span and travel well. These chemicals are heavier than water, they do not float, they sink. Additionally, they break down very slowly, posing a significant environmental hazard.
From the 1930s through the 1990s, it was common practice for dry cleaners to intentionally release PERC into the environment by disposing of PCE-laced materials directly onto the ground or into sewers and dry wells, inadvertently polluting their surroundings as soon as operations commenced. Nobody knew how bad this was for the environment and human health and safety. And because of this, the standard of care for dry cleaners, up until this point in history, did not take into account the adverse impacts of releasing PERC into the environmental.
These were just the intentional releases, not to mention the accidental ones caused by old equipment and deteriorating infrastructure, which further compounded the problem.
Multiple times per day, every day for decades. Continuous and ongoing, these pollutants were being released into the environment, causing 3rd party impacts to soil and groundwater that would persist for decades.
How Restorical Research Can Help
Restorical Research offers a unique blend of historical insight and modern expertise, providing invaluable support to dry cleaners navigating the complex landscape of environmental contamination and insurance coverage.Find Your Policy
Restorical Research aids clients by taking a holistic approach to the issues. Focusing on the site history and environmental conditions to narrow our focus towards responsive policy periods.
We specialize in uncovering historical insurance policies that are crucial for funding the remediation of historical dry cleaners.
We focus on addressing and demonstrating third-party impacts, such as groundwater contamination, to trigger insurance policy coverage.
Restorical Research aids clients in developing comprehensive strategies to secure insurance funding for various scenarios, including new developments needing vapor mitigation systems and properties impacted by historical contamination.