The owner of a North Vancouver dry cleaning store will be sentenced next month after pleading guilty to violating environmental regulations with the improper use of a toxic chemical.

Alhamid Dharshi, who owns Lester's Cleaners, was charged with improperly storing PERC,or perchloroethylene,​ last fall, after an Environment Canada investigation into 48 dry cleaners around the province.

This week, the provincial court judge hearing the case asked why he shouldn't send Dharshi to jail, according to attending media.

PERC, or perchloroethylene, is considered a probable carcinogen and was declared toxic in 1997 under the Canadian Environmental Protection Act. But it's also very effective at cleaning clothes without altering their shape.

The investigation into the province's dry cleaners alleged that nearly half improperly handled the chemical, which has been linked to a number of health problems including liver, kidney, and central nervous system damage.

Search warrants show federal enforcement officers inspected dozens of businesses and found 21 dry cleaners with "at least one container of PERC, waste water or residue without a secondary containment."

According to court records, the action also resulted in charges against the owners of Save On Drycleaning in Surrey, Yager's Payless Drycleaning in Delta and Aldo’s Dry Cleaners in Nelson.

The owner of Save On was ordered to pay $11,000, while the owner of Yager's racked up $14,000 in fines. Cheech Holdings, owners of Aldo's, was fined $6,500.

Also known as tetrachloroethylene, the solvent was banned in California in 2007, and could soon face a ban in France.

PERC is rated as a hazardous chemical, and can lead to eye irritation, memory loss and even kidney damage with direct exposure.

The solvent is also the cause of widespread contamination associated with old dry cleaning businesses and has been cited in WorkSafeBC compensation claims by dry cleaning employees.

But if used correctly, dry cleaners say, the solvent is of no danger to customers or staff and effectively removes grease, oil and stains from clothes.

Alhamid Dharshi of Lester's Cleaning is next scheduled to appear in court on July 4.

Charges against Lester's Cleaners


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