Site of former dry cleaners, Division Street early ed program slated for air quality tests

BENNINGTON — The state has identified the Division Street building that houses the Southwest Vermont Supervisory Union's Early Childhood Education program as requiring an indoor air quality assessment, due to being located at the site of a former dry cleaning business.

The Vermont Department of Environmental Conservation last month identified seven childcare programs across the state that are located within 200 feet of a presently-operating or historic dry cleaner. "The assessment work is precautionary," said the department in a press release, "and the state stands ready to provide mitigation support if needed."

"State officials emphasized that this proactive effort is based on an understanding of the potential impact of chemicals used by dry cleaners," read the release. "At this time there have been no reported cases of illnesses linked to this issue and there have not been any issues reported with any of the children's programs being tested. All seven child care and preschool facilities are open and operating as usual."

SVSU Superintendent Jim Culkeen said that parents were notified last month about the testing. The building is owned by Southwestern Vermont Health Care, which is working with a contractor to perform the testing. The SVSU moved into the facility in 2014, and lease it from the hospital for $1 per year. There are three classrooms that operate out of the building.

SVSU Early Childhood Education Director Kate Abbott said that this is not the first time that the building's air quality as been tested, and that past results have come back clean. "(SVHC) has been pro-active on this in the past, and we will continue to be pro-active," she said.

Abbott said her research showed that a dry cleaner, Mercury Cleaners and Wright-Way Laundry, operated on the site in the past, though it is not clear when it closed. She found a reference to the business in a 1957 advertisement in the Bennington Banner. Advertisements for the business appear to have run in the Banner from 1955-1960, and classifieds looking for staff would continue to run through the 60's. The business also advertised in Bennington College's publication, "The Bennington Weekly," in 1950 and 1951. In the April 29, 1963 edition of the Banner, it was announced that Lester Henry Wright, who is described as the former owner of Wright-Way Laundry and past president of the Varsity International Conference of Drycleaners and Laundry, had died.

In the July 19, 1969 edition of the Banner, the paper reported that Arthur H. Brown, owner of ALADCO Linen Service, based out of Adams, Mass., had purchased the property. Brown said at the time that the business would continue to be known as Wright-Way Laundry. An article about Brown in 1970 refers to him as the purchaser of "the former Wright-Way laundry" and owner of the newly expanded Vermont Linens. Classified ads from Vermont Linens appear through the 70's, often referencing the Division Street location.'s archives of the Banner are only complete up to 1977, but the 233 Division Street property appears in a directory listing from that year, listed as Wright-Way Laundry. No references to Lester Wright, Wright-Way Laundry, Mercury Cleaners, Arthur Brown, or Vermont Linens were found in the index for the Banner's microfiche archive.

ALADCO Linen Services exists to this day, with locations in Adams and Holyoke, Mass. That company was purchased from the Brown family in 2005 by current president David R. Desmarais, according to their website.

The Vermont Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) is leading the assessment and air quality testing in coordination with the Department of Health and the Department for Children and Families. "We are focusing on child care and preschool programs because children are more vulnerable to chemical exposure than older youth and adults," said DCF Commissioner Ken Schatz. "The staff of each of the seven programs have been supportive of the assessments. I commend their efforts in providing safe and healthy services to families in their communities."

Department of Health State Toxicologist Sarah Vose said it is unclear at this point what the testing may find, and that collecting this data is a first step to understand what chemicals, if any, may be present.

The other six locations that were identified were Canal Street Headstart in Brattleboro, Y Early Childhood Program in Burlington, Frog and Toad Child Care and Learning Center in Essex, Blooming Minds Enrichment Center in St. Albans, Heartworks in Stowe, and CU2 ChildCare in Williston.

Derek Carson can be reached at, at @DerekCarsonBB on Twitter and 802-447-7567, ext. 122.


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