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Published January 13 2012

EPA claims West Fargo dry-cleaning firm still owes $87,500 for 2001 cleanup

WEST FARGO – The owner of a former dry-cleaning business here faces new federal penalties after failing to complete required settlement payments to the Environmental Protection Agency six years ago.

Federal attorneys allege that Camelot Cleaners Inc., still owes the EPA $87,500 plus interest and penalties in connection with cleanup costs at 602 Sheyenne St., where the dry-cleaning firm operated until 1998.

In 2001, the EPA found that hazardous chemicals from the Camelot Clean­ers’ operations had seeped at least 44 feet into the ground and threatened West Fargo’s drinking water supply.

The cleanup effort took four years to complete and cost the federal government about $5.7 million.

Because the owner of Camelot Cleaners couldn’t afford to reimburse that cost, the government arranged a settlement agreement in which the business and its parent companies were ordered to pay a total of $150,000 in 12 monthly installments to end in early 2006.

Federal attorneys wrote in a complaint filed this week in Fargo’s U.S. District Court that the business paid five installments, totaling $62,500, before the payments stopped.

Camelot Cleaners’ two parent companies filed for bankruptcy in 2008, but the owners of the former local business are still liable for the payments, the federal attorneys wrote.

In addition to the remaining payments that are due, federal attorneys said the original settlement agreement states Camelot Cleaners is responsible for a $250 penalty per day for each day payments are late.

According to Forum archives, cleanup crews removed more than 5,000 pounds of contaminants from the ground near the West Fargo business.

After the West Fargo firm closed, the Camelot name was sold at least three times, said Andy Lien, the district manager of the area Camelot Cleaners currently in operation. The EPA is seeking payment from the owner of the former West Fargo business, listed in federal court records as Camelot Cleaners Inc.

Forum reporter Jessica Ballou contributed to this report.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Kristen Daum at (701) 241-5541