Connecticut Attorney General's Office

Press Release

Attorney General, DEP Announce $1.8 Million Settlement With Industrial Laundry Company For Harmful Emissions

February 18, 2010

            Attorney General Richard Blumenthal and Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) Commissioner Amey Marrella announced today a $1.8 million settlement with an industrial laundry facility for emitting toxic substances that threatened public health.

            Blumenthal sued G&K Services Co. in 2008 on behalf of DEP and won an order blocking the company from laundering soiled shop towels contaminated with various solvents, oils and greases that contain volatile organic compounds (VOCs).

            Located within close proximity to residential homes, G&K’s emissions created a nuisance odor, prompting complaints from neighbors. A state investigation confirmed the unsafe emissions -- potentially carcinogenic and neuro-toxic -- that could be irritating and damaging to lungs, eyes and skin.

            Under a stipulated judgment filed in court today, G&K will pay $1.8 million. The settlement provides $1.189 million in penalties to the state General Fund; $111,000 to the DEP for unpaid fees; and $500,000 to the City of Waterbury for environmental projects reviewed and approved by DEP to benefit Waterbury citizens.

            “This settlement compels G&K to compensate the public for airing its dirty laundry -- literally spewing toxic industrial laundry emissions that created a public health threat and nuisance,” Blumenthal said. “Even more than the money, this settlement stops G&K from laundering industrial towels in Connecticut until it strictly adheres to state anti-pollution regulations.

            “G&K spewed dangerous chemicals into the air that endangered neighbors -- particularly people who may be elderly, very young, pregnant or suffer from respiratory and other medical conditions. Acting with none of the legally mandated anti-pollution measures installed, G&K violated its state permits and regulations. This settlement pays back the public for illegal emissions, and protects the public from future harm.”

            Commissioner Marrella said, “The work of DEP staff has been central to the successful conclusion of the case against G&K. DEP staff discovered the violations at G&K, brought them to the  attention of the office of Connecticut's Attorney General and worked closely with the Attorney General's office to develop the case against the company. DEP staff also worked closely with the U.S. EPA to provide information which led that agency to take national action against G&K. This work demonstrates the determination of our DEP staff to protect citizens from harmful air emissions, illegal water discharges and improper handling of hazardous wastes, and to make certain there is compliance with our environmental laws and regulations.”

Marrella added, “The settlement is also noteworthy for other reasons. It is by far the largest of three other enforcement actions nationwide against G&K. It provides $500,000 for environmentally beneficial projects in the city of Waterbury -- the place where people were most directly affected by the violations. And finally, it includes provisions for G&K to switch to more environmentally friendly detergents that do not contain alkyl phenol ethoxylates (APEs), which are toxic at low levels and are suspected endocrine disruptors.”

            Waterbury Mayor Michael J. Jarjura said, “The citizens of Waterbury are grateful to the DEP and the Attorney General for their diligence in protecting their health and welfare.”

            Blumenthal sued after G&K violated its DEP permits and state regulations by failing to install proper pollution control equipment on its washers and failing to obtain required permits for the construction and operation of its industrial dryers, which are considered a stationary source of air pollution.

            G&K’s industrial dryers have the potential to emit more than 50 tons of VOCs annually.

            Such facilities, if properly controlled, may be allowed to release small amounts of these chemicals that – when mixed with outdoor air at proper height – will not create a public health risk. Uncontrolled emissions, as G&K emitted, posed a significant public health threat, particularly to the elderly, young children, pregnant women and those with medical conditions.

G&K operates an industrial laundry facility in Waterbury where it launders uniforms, floor mats, mops, garments, linens, continuous roll towels, and dust products.

Since Blumenthal obtained a court order in April 2008 blocking G&K from laundering shop and print towels at its Connecticut locations, G&K has continued to collect shop towels from customers at the Waterbury site and trucked the towels to an out-of-state laundering facility.

Today’s agreement, or stipulated judgment, revokes the company’s licenses to operate certain industrial washers at the Waterbury site and blocks the company from continued violations of the state’s air pollution and waste management regulations, and its wastewater permit.

Until the company meets legal standards and obtains proper permits, it is prohibited from laundering shop and print towels at the Waterbury facility.

Within 30 days of today’s judgment, G&K will retain TRC Companies, Inc., a qualified consultant, to assist in preparing applications and documents and overseeing the company’s efforts to comply with their agreement and environmental obligations, including obtaining necessary permits, record keeping, reporting, monitoring and testing.

If G&K eventually obtains proper permits to launder shop and print towels in the future, the consultant must monitor and inspect the operations for at least three years.