In addition to the RCRA, several other federal laws control the collection, treatment, and disposal of hazardous try cleaning waste. These rules were created to protect the environment and to provide a framework for equitable compensation and liability in the event of a hazardous waste spill or other catastrophic contamination. Staying compliant with all the relevant federal laws and regulations not only helps protect the environment, but also safeguards your business from costly litigation as well as fines, sanctions, and other penalties. Here are the environmental laws with which we must maintain compliance.

The Clean Water Act

The Clean Water Act (CWA) was created to protect the nation’s surface water, including lakes, streams, ponds, and oceans. The CWA controls both direct discharges to surface waters as well as stormwater runoff and indirect discharge in the public sewer system. The portion of the CWA most pertinent to dry cleaners involves the statute's regulation of perc, trichloroethane, and CFC-113, as well as NPDES. Your state water authority, regional EPA office, or local POTW can provide you with additional guidance regarding CWA compliance.

The Clean Air Act

Like the CWA, the Clean Air Act (CAA) also regulates pollution, only it focuses on national emissions standards. The CAA regulates the discharge of hazardous air pollutants (HAP), including perc. To remain compliant with the CAA, dry cleaners who use perc must follow several specific prevention steps. CAA compliance requires regular inspection of dry cleaning equipment, leak detection and repair logs, good housekeeping practices, and a record of the total perc amount purchased over the last 12 months. You can contact your local Air Pollution Control District or Air Quality board for additional CAA compliance information. Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, ad Liability (CERCLA or Superfund) CERCLA, also known as Superfund, provides the EPA with authority to act in the event of a release of hazardous waste sufficient enough to endanger public health, welfare, or the environment. The waste can come from any source, and the EPA has the power to force responsible parties to provide environmental mitigation through Superfund to clean up the affected location or reimburse the EPA for costs incurred to remediate the contaminated area. Under CERCLA, dry cleaners must report any hazardous substance release to the National Response Center (800-824-8802) within 24 hours. In addition, any contamination of local sewer pipes caused by your perc-containing wastewater may also trigger liability under CERCLA.

The Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act

Both the Superfund Amendments and Reauthorization Act (SARA) of 1986 and the Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act (EPCRA) were created to help communities access information about potential chemical hazards and facilitate the deployment of chemical emergency response plans by state and local government. For Dry cleaners, a perc release exceeding 100 pounds within 24 hours would require an emergency response notification under the EPCRA. The State Emergency Response Commission can provide you with additional guidance regarding compliance with both SRA and EPCRA.


In the event your facility discharges harmful contaminants into your local drinking water or other infrastructure, the SDWA and TSCA may also impose additional requirements and regulations. Under the Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA) the EPA has the authority to monitor and enforce national drinking water standards. A joint federal-state system was created under the SDWA to help with compliance and enforcement.  The Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) enables the EPA to collect data on chemicals to assess the risk posed by their manufacturing processing and use.

Stay Compliant

With so many different EPA laws impacting dry cleaning operations, it’s important to understand these statutes and their influence on your hazardous waste management and disposal protocols. By understanding the laws, you will be better able maintain acceptable hazardous waste disposal standards and avoid the legal and financial penalties that come with noncompliance.