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Two Columbia dry cleaners referred to attorney general

Friday, March 5, 2010 | 5:45 p.m. CST; updated 7:13 p.m. CST, Friday, March 5, 2010

COLUMBIA — Two Columbia dry cleaners were referred to the attorney general for hazardous waste law violations by the Department of Natural Resources.

According to a department news release, Mama Bessie’s Cleaners and U.S. Cleaners didn't pay a surcharge to the Drycleaning Environmental Response Trust Fund, which is administered by the department’s Hazardous Waste Program.

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Both dry cleaners are now closed.

The referral is for a failure to pay the annual fee for 2007 and 2008 for Mama Bessie’s Cleaners, and for 2008 for U.S. Cleaners, said Scott Huckstep of the Drycleaning Environmental Response Trust Fund.

Mama Bessie’s Cleaners owes $604.16 and U.S. Cleaners owes $1242.60.

The businesses are only now being referred to the attorney general because the department tries to work it out with the businesses first.

“We try to work with the facilities, and sometimes that takes time,” said Mark Conner, a spokesman for the Hazardous Waste Program. “The attorney general’s office is a last resort."

Nanci Gonder, a spokeswoman for Attorney General Chris Koster, said he hadn't determined what legal action to take.

The former owner of Mama Bessie’s Cleaners, Margaret Hickem-Smith, said that she was unaware of the violation and paid the $500 fee for 2007. She was unsure if she paid for 2008.

Conner said the Hazardous Waste Program had many phone conversations with Mama Bessie’s about the payment. Multiple letters were also sent to U.S. Cleaners informing them of the issue.

U.S. Cleaner’s could not be reached for comment.

The money from the fund helps cover the investigation and cleanup of active and abandoned dry cleaners with extensive contamination due to the use of chlorinated solvents.


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