Environment Council of Rhode Island

...building an ecologically healthy future in a sustainable economy

Environmental Protection from Industrial Laundries

Pub Date: 
Wednesday, March 3, 2004

Whereas industrial laundries pose significant environmental hazards, including wastewater emissions of toxic solvents and metals that are dangerous to people and wildlife; and

Whereas industrial laundries are among the largest emitters of "endocrine-disrupting" toxins to public wastewater systems, resulting from their use of detergents containing alkylphenols; and

Whereas the US Environmental Protection Agency has proposed draft water quality criteria for the most serious types of the alkylphenol endocrine disuptors ("nonylphenols"); and

Whereas in 2003, the European Union banned these chemicals from industrial and household detergents; and

Whereas rapidly biodegradable detergents made from alcohol ethoxylate are readily available and do not pose a known risk of hormone disruption in fish; and

Whereas Cintas Corporation, the market leader in the industrial laundry market, has routinely violated its wastewater permits at its facilities throughout the United States and leaked industrial contaminants into open waters; and

Whereas the Attorney General of Connecticut and citizen organizations in multiple states are suing Cintas in response to excessive violations of the Clean Water Act; and

Whereas these violations make protecting the environment more difficult and may raise utility costs to taxpayers; and

Whereas Cintas plans to operate a laundry in Cumberland, Rhode Island, which will discharge wastewater to the Narragansett Bay Commission; and

Whereas this company has received a tax-abatement from the Town of Cumberland despite a history of endangering the environment;

Now therefore be it resolved that the Environment Council of Rhode Island:

  • requests that managers of wastewater facilities within the state use their discretionary powers under the law to deny a permit to any industrial laundry which has shown a pattern of noncompliance at other locations in the country; and
  • declares that a permit, if granted, should address the serious potential threat from not only conventional emissions such as solvents and metals, but also from endocrine-disrupting compounds; and
  • encourages managers of wastewater treatment plants and public officials to work together to insure that any industrial laundry that has leaked or is charged with leaking chemicals or wastewater does not operate in Rhode Island without a secondary containment system; and
  • recommends that local authorities provide a report to the community on the consideration of any permit application by an industrial laundry before approval is given and grant the public a period of time to review and comment; and
  • opposes granting economic development incentives to companies that have a history of violating environmental laws and urges municipal governments to amend related ordinances to only reward companies that respect the protection of natural resources.