A massive plume of pollution under acres of homes, roads and a golf course in central Las Vegas is the worst of 28 sites in the valley contaminated by the same chemical.

At some point, someone winds up footing the bill for cleaning up those sites, and the Las Vegas National Golf Club case is turning out to be a local test of federal regulations outlining who pays when the polluter has filed for bankruptcy protection. In this case, the party in bankruptcy court is Al Phillips the Cleaner.

The gas-like mass of perchloroethylene, PCE, also known as tetrachloroethylene, or TCE, is emblematic of the intersection of older, less regulated Vegas – indeed, the entire nation – with a world of science that discovers dangers in commonplace practices of years past.

The “Maryland Square site” – the name given to the golf course plume of the potential carcinogen by the Nevada Division of Environmental Protection – is also the starting point from which to examine a list of PCE-contaminations pockmarking the Las Vegas Valley.

The sites identified by the Nevada Environmental Protection Division include two at Nellis Air Force Base, three at casinos and 19 at current or former dry cleaning businesses.

The chemical is widely used for metal degreasing as well as for dry cleaning fabrics. Inhalation of its fumes can cause neurological, liver and kidney problems, according to the EPA. Studies have found that prolonged exposure increases the risk of cancer. The EPA is currently reassessing its potential carcinogenicity.

Perchloroethylene remains in use in the dry cleaning industry, though other solvents with less harmful effects are also being used. Dry cleaners are now asked to take special precautions against site contamination to prevent PCE from getting into drinking water. In 1991, California declared perchloroethylene a toxic chemical, and its use will become illegal in that state in 2023…

Full Story: http://www.lasvegassun.com/news/2008/sep/29/cleaners-chemical-lingers-water-soil/