Chicago public health inspectors would have the authority to ticket dry cleaning facilities and auto repair shops that improperly dispose of perchloroethylene (“PERC”), a hazardous chemical found in polishes and cleaners, according to an ordinance the committee approved Thursday.

Committee Members Present: Chairman George Cardenas (12), Ald. Brian Hopkins (2), Ald. Gregory Mitchell (7), Ald. Toni Foulkes (16), Ald. Deb Mell (33), Ald. Carlos Ramirez Rosa (35), Ald. Emma Mitts (37).
Start Time: 10:30 a.m.

The Environmental Protection Agency says long-term exposure to PERC can contribute to cancer and lead to “impaired cognitive and motor neurobehavioral performance.” There are state and federal laws regulating the use and disposal of the solvent, but the city has had to rely on state inspectors for enforcement.

The ordinance Mayor Emanuel introduced on behalf of the city’s public health department aligns Chicago code with state and federal standards. City inspectors would now be able to ticket businesses that violate those laws. Fines range from $1,000 to $5,000. Dave Graham, the Assistant Commissioner with the Department of Public Health, told the committee the state has been asking the city to take over enforcement for the past three years. It’s actually easier for the city to issue violations, Graham says, because the “administrative hearing enforcement process” takes just two months. When the state regulates the chemical, violations are handled through the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency and the Attorney General’s office.

Before the vote, Ald. Emma Mitts (37) asked if anyone from the dry cleaning industry was going to testify. Chairman George Cardenas (12) said council fixture George Blakemore was the only person who signed up to comment.