UNH to pay fine,
fund new compliance system
in Jan. 2000 settlement with EPA
The University of NH settled
a pending enforcement action by US EPA on Jan. 7, 2000, by agreeing
to pay $49,000 in fines and to spend another $180,000 in creating and
maintaining a rigorous hazardous materials-tracking, reduction and management
EPA said the alleged violations
at UNH included:
- storing incompatible hazardous
wastes near each other;
- pouring treated mercury
waste down a drain without first ensuring that the waste was treated
to proper standards; and
- leaving outside, and in
unsecured locations, large stockpiles of used fluorescent bulbs, which
contain mercury above regulatory limits.
UNH generates hazardous waste
in its research and teaching laboratories, printing facilities, building
and fleet maintenance facilities, and art studios. EPA launched the
enforcement action in March of 1999, based on an extensive inspection
According to EPA, the university
acted "quickly and responsibly to correct prior violations",
once cited for the problems by EPA after the inspection. The UNH case
is part of what EPA-New England calls a "targeted enforcement sweep
of selected New England campuses" that the agency began last spring.
The incident is also the second major enforcement action brought against
UNH by EPA over the past decade. In 1993, UNH settled a federal enforcement
action alleging mismanagement of PCB-containing materials, with the
payment of another significant fine to EPA.
The university's on-going
problems could be considered ironic, in light of the active pollution
prevention programs, research and business consulting services offered
within the UNH engineering department and its affiliated "P2"
At press time, University
of New Hampshire officials had no comment on the case.
The problems at UNH were
uncovered, EPA said, in a three-day inspection in July of 1997 that
found alleged violations of the federal and state hazardous waste provisions
at various UNH laboratories and storage facilities in Durham.
In the recent EPA enforcement
action, UNH signed a consent agreement in which the university agreed
to set up and maintain an extensive system to manage and reduce the
chemicals the university uses, stores and disposes.
The university's new "Chemical
Environmental Management System" will include:
- Maintaining a bar-coded
inventory of all existing and newly purchased chemicals on campus,
- A revised purchasing strategy
in which all chemicals will be purchased through the university's
purchasing department and a waste tracking system. The goal of the
new purchasing practices is to enable the minimum amount of chemicals
to be purchased, rather than a larger volume.
- Waste minimization strategies
for the use of chemicals.
- A waste inventory system
that, EPA said, is designed to ensure that chemicals are not stored
indefinitely on campus, and that professors and researchers receive
quarterly reports on chemicals in their laboratories that are approaching
- Programs to eliminate
the use of mercury on campus and to reduce chemical use in teaching
laboratories, where appropriate.
UNH also promised to document
that it has trained personnel in hazardous waste management and has
performed required inspections of all areas where hazardous wastes are
Many of the facilities on
university campuses, including labs, power plants and vehicle maintenance
facilities, may raise serious environmental and public health concerns
if they are not properly managed, according to federal regulators.
UNH was the third university
in New England to be hit recently with environmental enforcement actions
by EPA. The action against UNH was part of a larger effort aimed at
emphasizing environmental compliance at New England colleges and universities.
EPA has also recently taken action against Yale University and Boston
University for alleged violations of hazardous waste management laws
and the Clean Water Act. EPA says it has also stepped up its compliance
assistance programs and workshops for higher education officials. More
than 300 representatives of various New England colleges and universities
attended EPA workshops on compliance that were held last year in Boston
and Kittery, Maine.
"With this settlement,
the University (of New Hampshire) has taken steps to further protect
the public health and safety of students and staff on campus,"
said outgoing EPA-NE administrator John DeVillars in a January 7 statement
announcing the consent agreement.
Contact: Amy Miller, US EPA-NE,
617/918-1042; University System of NH, Durham, NH, 603/868-1800.
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This article was published
in the New Hampshire Environmental Monitor. For more information about
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