Cleaning up after the cleaners

Using a solar-powered water pump, Erica Collins, GeoE’10, is cleaning up contamination left behind by a local dry cleaner. She has already cleaned more than 70,000 gallons of water. You could call the project her mission.


For decades, dry cleaning operations, like Busy Bee in Rolla, poured chemicals down the drain. Unfortunately, some of those chemicals ended up contaminating groundwater.
Collins, a graduate student in geological engineering, is working on a comprehensive cleanup of the Busy Bee area. She installed a pump powered by solar energy at the site to pull the contaminated water from the ground. Collins checks on it multiple times a day. The water is treated or “cleaned” and then safely put back down the drain.
Collins says the contaminated water, while an environmental problem, never posed a threat to people. “It’s 5 to 15 feet into bedrock,” she says. “It was not going to make people sick.”
Working with Collins on the project are Curt Elmore, GeoE’86, associate professor of geological engineering, and John Cable, president of Triangle Environmental Science and Engineering and an adjunct faculty member in the geological engineering department.
Elmore says that drinking water in the United States is among the best in the world, thanks to regulations, monitoring and clean-ups when there is a potential problem.
“Rolla’s drinking water is safe from the tap,” he says. “You don’t have to worry about it.”
The project is being funded by Busy Bee owner Harold Robertson. He will be reimbursed through the Dry Cleaning Environmental Response Trust Fund, which is administered by the Missouri Department of Natural Resources.

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