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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 system.

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 in 1997.

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" programs.

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 expiration dates.
  • 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 stored.

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.

For more information, visit http://www.epa.gov/region01/pr/files/010700a.html

This article was published in the New Hampshire Environmental Monitor. For more information about the Monitor, contact

Ellen Roffman, Publisher
Putney Press - Email: ppress@sover.net
PO Box 430 Newfane, Vt 05345
802/365-7991 Fax: 802/365-7996
http://www.enviro-source.com