Campus Consortium for Environmental Excellence


Introduction > Midterm > Conclusion > Footnotes >

Project in Excellence and Leadership:
New England Universities' Laboratories Mid-Term

Piloting Superior Environmental Performance in Labs

Prepared by:
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
Office of Environmental Policy Innovation
Evaluation Support Division
Washington, D.C.
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency-New England
Boston, Massachusetts

With Assistance from:
Industrial Economics, Inc.
2067 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, Massachusetts 02140

Part 1

Table of Contents

Executive Summary

Section 1: Introduction and Background

1.1 Introduction
1.2 Background

Section 2: RCRA and OSHA Regulations for Laboratories

2.1 RCRA Background for the NEU Labs Project
2.2 The OSHA Laboratory Standard

Section 3: New England Universities' Laboratories Project XL

3.1 Project XL Background
3.2 The Project Sponsors
3.3 The Experiment
3.4 The Regulatory Flexibility
3.5 Potential for System Change with the Labs XL
3.6 Stakeholder Participation

Section 4: Evaluation Approach and Methodology

4.1 Evaluation Purpose
4.2 Evaluation Methodology
4.3 Evaluation Utilization

Section 5: Project Design and Implementation

5.1 The Workings of the New England University Laboratories Project
5.2 Project Implementation

Section 6: Anticipated Superior Environmental Performance

6.1 Setting of Environmental Objectives and Targets and Pollution Prevention
6.2 Streamlining the Regulatory Process to Achieve Better Waste Management
6.3 Environmental Awareness

Section 7: The Laboratory Environmental Management Standard

7.1 Minimum Performance Criteria
7.2 Environmental Management Plan
7.3 Organizational Responsibilities
7.4 Training and Information Requirements
7.5 Environmental Performance Indicators

Section 8: University-Specific EMPs

8.1 Boston College
8.2 University of Massachusetts Boston
8.3 University of Vermont

Section 9: Measuring Performance with Environmental Performance Indicators

9.1 EPI #1 Goal: Outdated Chemicals of Concern and EPI #2 Goal: Hazardous Chemicals of Concern Inventory
9.2 EPI #3 Goal: Pollution Prevention Assessments
9.3 EPI #4 Goal: Increase chemical reuse/redistribution by 20 percent from baseline,
EPI #5 Goal: Reduce hazardous waste generation by 10 percent 39
9.4 EPI #6 Goal: Assess and demonstrate improvement in environmental awareness by using an environmental awareness survey
9.5 EPI #7 Goal: Increase the percentage of students and laboratory workers receiving training
9.6 EPI# 8 Goal: Achievement of objectives and targets
9.7 EPI #9 Goal: Report Improvement on EMP conformance

Section 10: Lessons Learned to Date

Section 11: Conclusion


Appendix 1: New England Laboratories XL Logic Model

Appendix 2: Group Discussion Guide and Summaries of Group Discussions

Appendix 3: University-specific Environmental Management Plans

Appendix 4: University of Massachusetts-Boston Pollution Prevention Survey and Results

Appendix 5: University of Vermont Pollution Prevention Survey Appendix 6: Environmental Awareness Survey

Appendix 7: Boston College Post-survey training data

Appendix 8: University-specific Self-Inspection Forms

Appendix 9: Campus Consortium for Environmental Excellence Audit Grading Scheme

Appendix 10: Campus, Safety, Health and Environmental Management Association Benchmark data


Executive Summary

In 1999, a consortium of university laboratories in New England joined the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) Project XL (eXcellence and Leadership) program to test an innovative idea to reduce regulatory inefficiencies and achieve better environmental performance in laboratories than what is required under the current regulatory structure. This pilot initiated a new system of collaboration and partnership between the three New England Universities, EPA, the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection, and the Vermont Department of Environmental Conservation. The New England Universities' Laboratories (NEU Labs) project grew from the perception that current regulatory requirements that pertain to laboratories under the Resources Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) and Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) programs are duplicative and inefficient. Whereas the OSHA laboratory standard is written specifically for laboratories, RCRA Subtitle C requirements make no distinction among its many different regulated entities. This dual and dissimilar regulatory scheme currently governing laboratories has proven to be unwieldy.

Under Project XL, the three universities proposed an innovative environmental management system for laboratory wastes and promoted superior environmental management and performance in laboratories. Their approach was to harmonize the OSHA and RCRA requirements in a system that requires the use of performance-based criteria to effectively manage laboratory wastes under one holistic guiding document, an Environmental Management Plan (EMP), that is specifically tailored to the research needs and processes of each university. The new system focused on the following priority areas: (1) increasing faculty, laboratory staff, and student training in order to improve individual behavior in the laboratory and overall environmental awareness of staff and students; (2) generating pollution prevention ideas; (3) reducing laboratory hazardous waste generation; and (4) increasing chemical redistribution and reuse. By December 2000, all three schools had implemented their EMPs and had actively begun to track their commitments and progress in meeting the stated goals and objectives of the pilot project.

In June 2001, the three schools issued the first annual progress report for the project. It was clear in the first progress report that a heavy investment of time and resources on the part of Environmental, Health and Safety (EHS) staff at each institution had borne much fruit. At the same time, there was some frustration at the lack of movement in distinct areas of the EMP that would lead to improved environmental performance, and that it was difficult to paint a clear picture why the schools were seeing certain EMP elements take hold and why others seemed to be having minimal impacts. Based on these experiences, the three institutions, EPA and the States initiated a mid-term evaluation of the project in September 2001. This was the official midpoint of the project. The Final Project Agreement between EPA, the States and schools is set to expire in September 2003 unless the project is extended.

The goal of the mid-term evaluation is to garner lessons learned from the unique approach to laboratory management being tested by the three institutions and to highlight opportunities to improve the overall environmental performance for the universities for the remainder of the project. The evaluation emphasizes the results of the universities' efforts to actively encourage chemical reuse and recycling, enhance conformance with internal policies, increase efficiency, and promote environmental stewardship within laboratories. The evaluation measures progress based on nine Environmental Performance Indicators (EPIs) relative to baseline performance in five areas. The baseline measures cover the following areas: hazardous chemicals of concern surveys, measurement of laboratory wastes over six months, environmental awareness surveys, evaluation of laboratory wastes reused or redistributed, and the measurement of costs of compliance including waste disposal costs. Much of the data collected and reported is generated from annual reporting activities by the universities. However, a substantial portion of the data collected is qualitative in order to gain an understanding of why and how certain aspects of the project are working and why certain long-term environmental objectives may face realistic hurdles in the laboratory setting. Group discussions were conducted at each school in March 2002. The groups were comprised of EHS staff, faculty, principal investigators, laboratory staff and students.

The first eight sections of the report together represent the basic workings of pilot implementation in each of the schools. Although this background information is not the crux of the evaluation it serves to enhance the reader's understanding of the results of the evaluation and would allow for the replication of this pilot, if applicable to other colleges and universities. The performance data based on the EPIs are presented in Section 9. For most EPIs, the baseline results are assessed, followed by data collected in 2000-2001 and the most current data present for 2001-2002. The level of information discussed is dependent on the EPI, the university, and the way in which data was obtained. Findings and recommendations for all three universities are listed for each specific EPI. Section 10 presents lessons learned overall from the pilot experience and the concluding recommendations for all of the project partners.

Based on this mid-term assessment of this project, one can say that this project has shown great success in some important areas: developing EMPs, training staff, increasing awareness, shifting attitudes and behaviors, improving the range of activities that determine compliance and emergency preparedness, and demonstrating that the environmental management system approach to managing laboratory waste is slowly gaining hold and making progress. At the same time, the project has not shown the expected successes in other areas such as chemical reuse and redistribution or pollution prevention. Therefore, the results of this mid-term evaluation should not be interpreted to be a summative evaluation on the merits of regulatory change for laboratories. This project is an innovative approach to laboratory management not only for the universities but also for the Federal and State regulators involved. This is one of a few pilot approaches being tested throughout the country and will eventually feed information into potential future regulatory innovation. The utility of this mid-term evaluation is in identifying the strengths and weaknesses of the project, offering suggestions for continuous improvement, and creating a system of learning within EPA, the States, and the universities on laboratory innovation. The intended users of the evaluation are not only the three universities involved, but also the larger universe of academic institutions all grappling with similar environmental management and regulatory issues.

The key to understanding why certain EMP elements are implemented with relative ease and why others have fallen short of expectations lies in understanding academic culture. The primary lesson learned is that EHS, EPA, and the States need to work within the challenges of an academic culture, but also capitalize on the benefits of an academic culture. For example, EHS staff at all three universities invested a lot of energy and time into trying to meet two EPI goals in particular that dealt with increasing chemical redistribution and reuse, and decreasing waste generation. Based on the group discussions, it is evident that it is extremely challenging to achieve the stated goals for these EPIs as the culture of research, with its demands for chemical purity and scientifically acceptable protocols, stifle researchers' motivation to reduce chemical inputs, increase chemical reuse, and reduce waste.

Group discussion data at each school supplemented performance data in the areas of training, compliance, and behavior changes. Staff and student training are raising the level of awareness and are slowly starting to change the behaviors of individuals. This awareness and training are vital to the long-term success of the project as compliance, or lack thereof, can be dependent on the actions of one individual.

These findings and others discussed in the report do point to some changes for the universities over the life of the project. For example, the evaluation suggests that EHS should re-prioritize its emphasis on certain EPI elements-for the remaining year (or years following if the project is extended), it is best to focus on making strides in pollution prevention. In fact, the participants in the project are sponsoring a pollution prevention workshop scheduled for November 2002.

The following are the overarching lessons learned and recommendations:

* Work within the challenges of an academic culture-capitalize on the benefits of an academic culture

    - High level research requires chemical purity
    - Scientifically acceptable research protocols limit chemical reductions
    - Tracking laboratory progress and staff training is difficult
    - Intransigent faculty and researchers can impede implementation of an innovative program
    - Responsibility and accountability are not straightforward in a laboratory setting
    - Compliance can suffer without proper leadership
    - One individual makes all the difference

    - Compliance happens when regulations "make sense," are unambiguous and straightforward
    - Energized students can be the catalysts for change
    - Mission and purpose are vital to the success of an innovative program
    - Collaboration fosters a problem-solving environment
    - Department champions in many cases will have better compliance in their laboratories
    - One individual makes all the difference

* Prioritize EMP elements to improve environmental performance over the next two years by focusing on pollution prevention
The other EPIs, while worthy goals and should not be forsaken, are so dependent on research grants and research that any progress made in one semester can be easily erased in the next. Achieving pollution prevention in laboratories is more lasting, attainable, and most transferable to other laboratories and schools.

* Improve EMP compliance
It is impressive that in almost all laboratories involved in this project, staff and students were familiar with EHS staff and had received laboratory training. However, the schools are still having difficulty complying with some of the Minimum Performance Criteria-the EMP elements that most closely mimic the RCRA regulation they were meant to improve upon.

* Create a system of accountability.
EHS staff at all three schools need a better suite of tools-both incentives and self-policing-to create a partnership with laboratory staff, faculty and students to improve laboratory management-EHS staff need both "carrots and sticks" in order to change behaviors. School administrators need to support EHS staff in their efforts, and EHS needs to look into more ways to expand their reach in the laboratory to work with individuals.

* Performance measurement goals may not always be the right measures and can overly narrow the focus of the project and overwhelm project implementation
The EPIs were designed to measure success in terms of superior environmental performance and to test a better regulatory scheme in return for superior environmental performance. The schools, EPA, and the States are still investigating appropriate ways to measure whether these goals have been achieved.

* Top college and university Administration support is crucial and it has to be reinforced periodically
There are many day-to-day and month-to-month activities associated with environmental, health and safety management, but as in any endeavor, continuous improvement only occurs if the feedback loop is complete and operating smoothly.

* There are benefits to coupling health and safety requirements with environmental regulation
A recurring theme from the group discussions is that simplifying requirements-especially those that overlap-and having one consistent training session on health and safety and environmental management has greatly improved staff and students ability to understand what is required of them.

* Benchmarks and baseline information are necessary to be able to measure progress
Progress for this project would be better measured if baseline audits for all relevant EPIs took place prior to EMP implementation and if baseline data was robust and quality.

* Reporting consistency is critical to improving data quality and measuring progress
The schools need to stress data consistency in their reporting over time. The schools can simplify their reporting by using one information template and by detailing which initiatives remain in progress, new projects started, or efforts retired. Without consistent reporting, it is difficult to explain results and measure progress.

* Focus on the long-term benefits of training.
Answer the questions of "why" in addition to focusing on the "how"-While it is still of utmost importance to stress how laboratories should be properly managed, it is clear from the group discussions that time spent on addressing why it is important to properly store and dispose of waste and how waste disposal impacts the environment, could result in behavioral changes.

* Create more opportunities for EMP users to be instruments of change in the laboratories
The simple act of gathering people who believe in and understand the EMP can generate new ideas and excitement about expanding the options available in laboratories to create positive environmental results.

* Long-term attitudinal and behavioral change is possible with training and extensive communication
Training and constant feedback to and from the EHS departments identifying what is working, what remains unclear, where people are succeeding, and the support of school Administrators are the real ways in which behavioral shifts can occur in an academic setting.

* Utilize institutional champions
The schools need to make use of those individuals and Administrators who are supportive of this project and recognize the value of having this project succeed in order to make inroads on the challenges ahead.

It is difficult to neatly package the findings of this evaluation and declare success or disappointment for the whole project based on two years of implementation. The lessons learned highlight areas of great progress and areas that require further thought, discussion, brainstorming, and action. However, the lessons learned do not adequately emphasize all of the hard work that has been invested into this project by the schools, the States and EPA. In the era of heightened awareness of domestic security issues, colleges and universities can benefit from a more holistic management scheme, such as the NEU Labs project, that stresses chemical awareness, proper chemical handling, disposal, and better laboratory housekeeping in general. One thing is clear-the lessons learned from this evaluation will be invaluable if implemented and used to affect change in the universities.

Looking forward, EPA, the States and the schools should continue to work together to strengthen this innovative partnership and to continue to seek out solutions to the difficult challenges that remain in laboratories and to explore new options for improving environmental, health and safety on college and university campuses. As the universities, States and EPA systematize their abilities to creatively solve problems there are greater opportunities to seek environmental gains in areas not solely focused on laboratories. These opportunities hold great promise for these schools that can be called innovators. Energy efficiency in laboratories, enhanced and holistic chemical management programs, and exploring multi-media environmental management systems on college and university campuses can offer new superior environmental performance horizons for the project partners to tackle.


This evaluation could not have been completed without the tireless efforts of Gail Hall, Boston College; Zehra Schneider Graham, University of Massachusetts Boston; Ralph Stuart and Francis Churchill at the University of Vermont; Gina Snyder, Project Manager-EPA New England; George Frantz, Innovative Projects Coordinator-EPA New England; and Anne Leiby, General Counsel-EPA New England to share information, plan campus visits and group discussions, and review the report.

The three universities, EPA New England, the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection, and particularly the dedication of Steve Simoes at the Vermont Department of Environmental Conservation should be applauded in their efforts -especially considering the challenges -to partner, experiment, learn and innovate in order to promote superior environmental performance in college and university laboratories.

The Project Manager for this evaluation was Suganthi Simon, of EPA's Office of Policy, Economics and Innovation. Consultant support was provided under Contract 68-WA-98-207 between EPA and Industrial Economics, Inc. Robert Black and Scott Cole of Industrial Economics, Inc., assisted in conducting group discussions, compiling and analyzing data on environmental awareness surveys, and reviewing university compliance information.

Section 1 Introduction and Background

1.1 Introduction

This mid-term evaluation of the New England Universities' Laboratories (NEU Labs) Project in Excellence and Leadership (Project XL) is focused on the progress and lessons learned from two years of implementation of Project XL conducted by three universities in New England. The schools piloted an Environmental Management Standard for University Laboratories finalized in the Federal Register (Volume 64, Number 187, page 52380) dated September 28, 1999.

The utility of this mid-term evaluation is in identifying the strengths and weaknesses of the NEU Labs program, offering suggestions for continuous improvement, and creating a system of learning within EPA, the States, and the universities on laboratory innovation. The intended users of this evaluation are not only the three XL universities, but also the larger universe of academic institutions all grappling with similar environmental management and regulatory issues. It is for this larger audience that the evaluation provides more background information on project development and structure so that pieces of this Labs XL experiment, if applicable, may be replicated in other institutions. In addition, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is an intended audience for this report, as it will help to inform a national dialogue on the potential for regulatory reform for academic laboratories.

1.2 Background

Colleges and universities, like their counterparts in industry, are required to comply with many applicable environmental requirements to protect human health and the environment. Most academic institutions are similar to small cities and encompass many analogous activities within their campus borders such as operating research laboratories, auto repair facilities, power plants and wastewater treatment plants; disposing of hazardous waste and trash; managing asbestos; supplying food, shelter, and drinking water to their population; maintaining grounds; and even, in some instances, incinerating wastes. Many universities also operate medical and research facilities that create their own set of environmental challenges. There are an estimated 150,000 private and public research laboratories in the United States, including university and academic laboratories. Laboratories are a unique setting in which most researchers operate independently, but collaboratively with peers both locally and on a worldwide basis. In general, these researchers are responsible for the daily control of operations, in partnership with the institutional administration. Each laboratory may have potential impacts on the natural environment and workers' health and safety. The major environmental and health and safety aspects associated with laboratories are hazardous waste management, chemical management, and energy usage1. The major regulatory concerns are focused on hazardous waste and laboratory chemical management as they pose a greater immediate risk to the environment and public health. Universities and colleges agree that hazardous wastes generated by laboratories should be regulated however, the problem is that the regulations were designed for waste management firms and industrial settings and therefore are neither well harmonized to fit the scope of the laboratory waste streams nor the activities of the laboratories. The magnitude of the overall laboratory waste problem also remains unclear. Colleges and universities are estimated to generate only about 1/100 of 1 percent of the nation's hazardous waste.2

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and the EPA have jurisdiction over two major regulations that affect hazardous waste and chemical management in laboratory operations. The two laws that have the most impact on the environmental performance of university laboratories are the EPA Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) Subtitle C program and the OSHA Occupational Exposure to Hazardous Chemicals in Laboratories regulation (the OSHA Laboratory Standard).

These regulations are implemented differently as explored below, however the major implication of this dual regulation system is that laboratory management is required to implement and track two parallel and not always consistent chemical management systems within the laboratory setting. RCRA includes externally imposed requirements governing the management and handling of "hazardous waste" while OSHA is built on a performance-based, internally-developed management system governing the management and handling of "hazardous chemicals". These two regulatory programs often appear to create a confusing system in the laboratory and for researchers, and can result in regulatory non-compliance in laboratory settings.

Section 2 RCRA and OSHA Regulations for Laboratories

2.1 RCRA Background for the NEU Labs Project

The Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA), an amendment to the Solid Waste Disposal Act, was enacted in 1976 to manage the nation's hazardous and municipal solid waste through "cradle-to-grave" regulations. The RCRA regulatory program has four main goals: (1) to protect human health and the environment from the hazards posed by waste disposal; (2) to conserve energy and natural resources through waste recycling and recovery; (3) to reduce or eliminate, as expeditiously as possible, the amount of waste generated, including hazardous waste; and (4) to ensure that wastes are managed in a manner that is protective of human health and the environment.

The RCRA program is sub-divided into three interrelated programs of which Subtitle C, is the regulatory program covering hazardous solid waste. RCRA Subtitle C establishes a federal program to manage hazardous wastes from cradle-to-grave-the generation, transportation, treatment, storage, or disposal of hazardous wastes. The Subtitle C program has resulted in perhaps the most comprehensive regulation EPA has ever developed. The regulated community that must understand and comply with RCRA and its regulations is a large, diverse group. It includes not only facilities typically thought of as hazardous waste generators, such as industrial manufacturers, but also government agencies and small businesses, such as a local dry cleaner generating small amounts of hazardous solvents, or a gas station with underground petroleum tanks3.

Under RCRA, a hazardous waste is defined as a "solid waste or combination of solid wastes, which because of its quantity, concentration, or chemical, or infectious characteristics may (1) cause or significantly contribute to an increase in mortality or an increase in serious irreversible or incapacitating reversible illness or (2) pose a substantial present or potential hazard to human health or the environment when improperly treated, stored, transported, disposed of or otherwise managed."

In its 26-year history, the RCRA program has increasingly heard from the regulatory community-especially those subject to Subtitle C-that some RCRA regulations cannot be implemented efficiently or effectively to achieve the intended results across such a wide range of constituent industries and businesses. The academic and research community has been particularly attuned to the difficulty of employing RCRA hazardous waste regulations that were largely intended for industrial operations. The RCRA Subtitle C regulations are most efficient when targeted at larger volumes of a small number of hazardous wastes that are consistently produced. In contrast, university laboratories typically generate relatively small quantities of many different hazardous wastes on a discontinuous basis4.

An important section of RCRA (RCRA, Section 3006) encourages EPA to authorize a qualified state to administer and enforce a hazardous waste program in the state in lieu of the federal program. State authorized programs may impose requirements that are more stringent or broader in scope that the federal RCRA program. As a result, variation exists in how certain RCRA requirements apply to academic research institutions. Within this authority, both regional EPA offices and states have reached varying interpretations of specific RCRA issues as applied to laboratory waste management.

2.2 The OSHA Laboratory Standard

The OSHA Laboratory Standard, promulgated in 1990, formally recognized several unique aspects of laboratories and laboratory operations and established a performance-based system for regulating them. The Occupational Safety and Health Agency enacted the Lab Standard ("Occupational Exposure to Hazardous Chemicals in Laboratories Standard, 29 CFR 1910.1450), which states:

"The Laboratory designed to provide a comprehensive approach for the protection of laboratory workers which is more appropriate to laboratory conditions than compliance with the substance specific standards in 29 CFR part 1910, subpart Z. The Laboratory Standard requires that employers protect workers through the development and implementation of work practices and control measures expressly tailored to the individual laboratory workplace."

Such a performance-based system is often more effective, both for the laboratories being regulated and for those regulatory agencies concerned with health, safety, and the environment5. The OSHA Laboratory Standard is centered on a Chemical Hygiene Plan (CHP). The CHP is a written plan by each university or research institution that must include the following points:
* Employee information and training about the hazards of chemicals in the work area, including how to detect their presence or release, work practices and how to use protective equipment, and emergency response procedures;
* The circumstances under which a particular laboratory operation requires prior approval from the employer;
* Standard operating procedures for work with hazardous chemicals;
* Criteria for use of control measures, such as engineering controls or personal protection equipment;
* Provisions for additional employee protection for work with "select carcinogens" and for reproductive toxins or substances that have a high degree of acute toxicity;
* Provisions for medical consultations and examinations for employees; and
* Designation of a chemical hygiene officer.

Although the CHP requires the aforementioned generic conditions, each CHP is modified to specific laboratory functions and its workers allowing for flexibility in its implementation.

Section 3 New England Universities' Laboratories Project XL

3.1 Project XL Background

In 1995, EPA embarked on an innovative program to test ideas that demonstrate eXcellence and Leadership (Project XL) by those who must comply with Agency regulations and policies. Project XL solicits ideas from private and public sector facilities, states, trade associations, and communities that propose solutions to difficult technical and regulatory problems and explore new approaches to protecting human health and the environment. By opening the door to experimentation, Project XL invites creativity and promotes new ways of achieving superior environmental performance while usually lowering the cost or lessening the regulatory burden of the project sponsor.

The program offers regulatory, program, policy, or procedural flexibilities to conduct the experiment. Under Project XL, project sponsors commit to conduct experiments that address the eight Project XL criteria:
1. produce superior environmental results beyond those that would have been achieved under current and reasonably anticipated future regulations or policies;
2. produce benefits such as cost savings, paperwork reduction, regulatory flexibility or other types of flexibility that serve as an incentive to both project sponsors and regulators;
3. have the support of stakeholders;
4. achieve innovation/pollution prevention;
5. produce lessons or data that are transferable to other facilities;
6. demonstrate feasibility;
7. establish accountability through agreed upon methods of monitoring, reporting, and evaluations; and
8. avoid shifting the risk burden, i.e., do not create worker safety or environmental justice problems as a result of the experiment.

Interested in promoting environmental regulations that reflect the unique situation of laboratories and reducing the amount of chemical waste produced, a group of universities from across New England formed the Laboratory Consortium for Environmental Excellence (LCEE) in 1997. Later renamed the Campus Consortium for Environmental Excellence (C2E2)6, the Consortium is a not-for-profit corporation whose member colleges, universities, and research organizations are interested in promoting the continual improvement of environmental management programs and systems at academic institutions and research organizations, including the management and disposal of hazardous chemicals from campus laboratories. In 1997, three schools in New England-Boston College (Chestnut Hill, Massachusetts), the University of Massachusetts Boston (Boston, Massachusetts), and the University of Vermont (Burlington, Vermont)-began discussions to submit a proposal to the Project XL program. With the help C2E2, the schools submitted a proposal to EPA in 1998. A Final Project Agreement (FPA) to govern the implementation of the project was signed between the schools, EPA New England and EPA Headquarters, the Vermont Department of Environmental Conservation (VT DEC), and the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (MA DEP) on September 28, 1999. This agreement marked the first approach to implementing an environmental management system targeting laboratory waste management at colleges and universities.

3.2 The Project Sponsors

Each of the following participating schools operates research and teaching laboratories at their respective campuses:
Boston College:
The University's 116-acre main campus is located in an open suburban setting six miles from downtown Boston. Boston College is a coeducational university with an enrollment of 8,900 undergraduate and 4,600 graduate students. The university confers more than 3,800 degrees annually in more than 50 fields of study through 11 schools and colleges. Its 641 faculty members are committed to both teaching and research, and have set new marks for research grant awards in each of the last 10 years. Boston College has approximately 130 research and teaching laboratories and is classified as a small quantity generator (SQG) under RCRA. For 2001-2002 Boston College has five full-time equivalents (FTEs) staff responsible for managing the environmental, health and safety aspects of its campus.

University of Massachusetts Boston (UMB):
UMB is one of five campuses of the University of Massachusetts. UMB is an urban university that provides teaching, research, and extension service. Programs include liberal arts and professional programs on the graduate and undergraduate levels, as well as doctoral programs that address issues of particular importance to urban environments and people. The campus currently supports 887 faculty members and 12,482 students in the 2000-2001 academic year, a combination of both part and full-time students. UMB has 140 operating laboratories on campus and is considered to be a Large Quantity Generator (LQG) because the laboratories surpass the 1-kilogram (2.2-pound) per month generation threshold of acutely hazardous waste under a certain RCRA regulation. There are 3.5 FTE staff in the EHS office who deal with Hazardous Waste, Chemical Handling, Fire Safety, Indoor Air, Emergency Preparedness, Lab Safety, etc. There is one 0.5 FTE person in Radiation Safety that is not tied to the EHS Office.

University of Vermont (UVM):
UVM is located in Burlington, Vermont's largest city, with a population of 40,000. UVM's campus houses nearly 100 buildings on a 425-acre main campus. UVM also has off-campus grounds consisting of: four research farms; nine natural areas, including the summit of Mount Mansfield; Rubenstein Ecosystem Science Center on Burlington's waterfront; and several regional education centers. The university has approximately 10,000 students and 928 full-time and part-time faculty. The university has eight distinct colleges and schools; a graduate college; a medical college; and a continuing education division and offers more than 90 undergraduate majors; 4 pre-professional programs; 72 master's and 20 doctoral degree programs; and a medical program. UVM has a RCRA Part B storage permit and is also a large quantity generator (LQG) as the laboratories and other sources generate more than 1,000 kilograms (2,200 pounds) of RCRA hazardous waste in a single month. UVM has 6.75 FTE at UVM who deal with biological and safety issues and 5.5 FTE who address radiation safety issues on campus.

A summary of the schools and their laboratory activities are summarized in the table below (see Table 1).

3.3 The Experiment

The principle objective of this Laboratory XL project is to pilot a flexible, performance-based system for managing laboratory waste. This performance-based system is developed around a Laboratory Environmental Management Standard (Laboratory EMS), which defines the criteria for the effective management of laboratory wastes. To achieve the objectives outlined in the Laboratory EMS, the universities are testing a two-part regulatory model which includes:
(1) Minimum Performance Criteria for the management of laboratory wastes and
(2) the development of a Laboratory Environmental Management Plan (EMP) which is a document that describes how each university will conform to the Laboratory EMS and the Minimum Performance Criteria.
While the Laboratory EMS provides an overarching framework for the project, the unique facet of this program is the flexibility that each university has to tailor its EMP to the needs of its respective laboratories.

This process is quite similar to the more universal concept of the Environmental Management System (EMS) that has been traditionally implemented in business, but is increasingly finding a home in local, state and federal governments. EMSs are being used with greater frequency to help integrate environmental considerations in day-to-day decision-making and practices and are designed to be part of the overall management system that includes organizational practices, procedures, processes and resources for developing, implementing, achieving, reviewing, and maintaining the environmental policy. An EMS provides a framework for managing environmental responsibilities, including regulatory compliance. The idea is that by improving overall environmental performance and placing more emphasis on pollution prevention, EMSs can also help organizations move beyond compliance.

The two-part model Laboratory EMS is further described below:

Laboratory Environmental Management Plan (EMP):
The Laboratory EMS requires that each university develop and implement an EMP for chemical waste disposal. It is through the Laboratory EMP that the universities will have an opportunity to design a performance-based system which complements the OSHA requirements, encourages waste minimization and the active redistribution and reuse of laboratory waste. The Laboratory EMP is similar to the OSHA-required Chemical Hygiene Plan (CHP), which will enable some of the current RCRA hazardous waste regulations to more closely reflect current OSHA regulations, reducing confusion and ambiguity within the university laboratory setting. This project tests to see if, as a result of the harmonization of the OSHA CHP and the RCRA-oriented EMP, the new system will actively encourage chemical reuse and recycling, reduce costs, increase efficiency, and better educate laboratory professionals, researchers, and students. In addition, the new system is expected to provide a better management approach for laboratories and result in increased pollution prevention while still ensuring protection of human health and the environment.

Minimum Performance Criteria:
In order to ensure the proper handling and management of laboratory waste, each laboratory must meet the minimum performance criteria defined in the Laboratory EMS and addressed in the Laboratory EMP. The elements of the Minimum Performance Criteria address criteria for labeling of laboratory waste, proper storage and containers for waste, duration of waste storage, and emergency response procedures in case of accidental releases of waste.

It is anticipated that the model being tested will yield superior environmental performance, beyond that which is achieved by the current RCRA regulatory system in the following three key areas, which will be described in greater detail in Section 6:

    (1) Setting of Environmental Objectives and Targets and Pollution Prevention;
    (2) Streamlining the Regulatory Process to Achieve Better Waste Management; and
    (3) Promoting Greater Environmental Awareness.

3.4 The Regulatory Flexibility

Achieving superior environmental performance for this project requires flexibility in two areas of the RCRA statute involving

    (1) hazardous waste determination and
    (2) hazardous waste satellite accumulation.
As an incentive to achieve superior environmental performance at the participating universities, EPA's Office of Solid Waste, the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (MADEP), and the Vermont Department of Environmental Conservation (VTDEC) are allowing for more flexible and cost-effective processes under RCRA.

To enable this XL project, flexibility for the universities' compliance with RCRA regulations was addressed by a new site-specific rule for 40 CFR part 262, Subpart J, published by EPA in the September 28, 1999, Federal Register. In addition to addressing the two areas for regulatory flexibility, the new subpart also defines the Laboratory EMS. The regulatory flexibility agreed to under this project is termed a "conditional temporary deferral" that will expire on the FPA termination date and is only effective as long as the universities comply with the Laboratory EMS, including the Minimum Performance Criteria, and the requirements for the Laboratory EMP. State regulatory requirements in Massachusetts and Vermont parallel the Federal RCRA requirements for hazardous waste, and therefore, state regulatory relief is also addressed under this XL agreement.

In March 2000, VT DEC made revisions to the Vermont Hazardous Waste Management Regulation that exempts UVM from certain requirements of Sections 7-202, 7-301, 7-303, 7-305(b), and 7-310 of the state regulations. VT DEC is the primary regulatory agency overseeing UVM's EMP. The MA DEP promulgated a state specific rule that incorporated the terms of the Federal rule in May 2001. The state-specific rule provided increased regulatory flexibility and allowed Boston College and UMB to proceed with the project.

Hazardous Waste Determination.
According to 40 CFR Part 262.102, Laboratory Waste means a hazardous chemical that results from laboratory scale activities and includes the following: excess or unused chemicals that may or may not be reused outside their laboratory of origin; hazardous chemicals determined to be RCRA hazardous waste as defined in 40 CFR Part 261; and hazardous chemicals that will be determined not to be RCRA hazardous waste pursuant to Part 262.106.

The universities believed that hazardous waste determination might be made prematurely in the laboratories and early characterization of a chemical, as waste may be a barrier to the reuse, recycling and redistribution of laboratory waste throughout the institution. Once researchers and graduate students no longer have use for an individual laboratory waste, they are seldom aware of the reuse and recycling opportunities available in other laboratories. Thus, they label even reusable materials "hazardous waste." The result is that a certain quantity of reusable material is unnecessarily disposed of every year. Under the current RCRA/OSHA regulatory scheme, a 1996 survey revealed that university laboratories currently reuse less than 1 percent of laboratory waste7. Therefore, identifying a central location where a trained environmental professional who has primary responsibility for all laboratories makes the formal determination as to the potential reuse or recycling opportunities for laboratories at the institutional level, is believed to increase the reuse and recycling of laboratory waste.

This site-specific rule permits the hazardous waste determination to take place at a centralized facility within each university, potentially increasing the likelihood of reuse and recycling of materials. Under this XL project, the participating universities formally defer the hazardous waste determination from the laboratory to a central on-site location. The conditional temporary deferral covers laboratory waste.

Hazardous Waste Accumulation Time.
The satellite accumulation provisions of RCRA, 40CFR 262.34(c) require that hazardous waste in excess of 55 gallons be removed within three days of reaching the 55-gallon limit and some state rules are more stringent, requiring the removal of any full container within the three day timeframe. The universities have found that the three-day limit on the satellite accumulation of hazardous waste is often too short and not very practical in a university laboratory setting. This results in the EHS professional spending a great deal of time picking up and transporting full containers of laboratory waste on a constant, but somewhat unpredictable basis. The current system results in reactive and episodic pick-ups which, in a setting of over one hundred laboratories becomes time-consuming and inefficient for laboratory and EHS personnel and takes the place of other pressing EHS activities. The extension of three days accumulation is extended to 30 days to allow for EHS professionals to collect and remove laboratory waste during planned, systematic and scheduled intervals.

The change in waste management allows for the development of infrastructure and training designed to increase waste minimization and foster an organized and coordinated campus-wide chemical reuse system. Regular inventories of laboratory chemicals and the additional hazardous chemical training, including pollution prevention and environmental management practices, received by laboratory workers will help ensure that chemicals stored within the laboratory do not pose additional risks to laboratory workers.

3.5 Potential for System Change with the Labs XL

Project XL provides EPA with opportunities to test and implement approaches that protect the environment and advance collaboration with stakeholders. The innovations and potential system changes emerging from the NEU Labs project are described below.

Alternative Regulatory Approaches to Encourage Hazardous Waste Recycling and Reuse.
By providing regulatory flexibility to the participating universities in conjunction with the EMPs, EPA and the State agencies are evaluating the effectiveness of flexibility in hazardous waste determination and temporary holding in encouraging the more efficient utilization of resources at the university level and thereby increasing recycling, reuse and pollution prevention efforts. The information gained on this approach and through this evaluation may be used by EPA to develop a framework to address the potential transferability of this type of regulatory flexibility to colleges and university laboratories nationwide.

Development of a Performance-based Environmental Standard for University Laboratories.
The project is being conducted over a period of four years, and performance is evaluated annually based on the institution=s reuse/redistribution of hazardous chemicals from laboratories, generation of hazardous waste, management system audits, and laboratory worker environmental awareness surveys. In light of the environmental performance of the three universities and the lessons learned from this pilot project, EPA, with stakeholder input, are using the information to determine whether an environmental standard for laboratories could serve as a national regulatory alternative.

3.6 Stakeholder Participation

Both national and local stakeholder have been involved in the development of the Laboratory EMS and substantive elements of the FPA. The initial stakeholder group, involved in FPA development, was a national assembly of experts in laboratory chemical and environmental safety. The purpose of this group was twofold:
    (1) to ensure that the NEU Labs proposal reflected state-of-the-art thinking with regard to controlling the potential impacts of laboratory chemicals and
    (2) to ensure that the Laboratory EMS developed by the XL participants could over time reasonably apply to a broad spectrum of colleges and universities.

The development of the XL project was discussed at two broader based national stakeholders= meetings sponsored by C2E2. These meetings included representatives of different-sized colleges and universities, non-governmental organizations, industry, and various branches of the EPA. People unable to attend the national stakeholders' meetings were able to review the various drafts of the NEU Labs proposal on the XL web page on the Internet and comment electronically through the NEU Labs e-mail listserv.

Additionally, copies of the XL proposal were mailed to individuals or organizations upon request. More than 100 people reviewed the proposal in this way. In addition, local stakeholders, such as university faculty, staff, and students, community stakeholders, and regulators with jurisdiction over laboratories have been involved through local meetings, presentations, or reviewing the NEU Labs proposal to ensure protection of laboratory worker and public health and safety under the proposed project.

As this XL project is being implemented, the stakeholder involvement program ensures that interested parties are apprised of the status of project implementation and that national and local stakeholders have access to information sufficient to judge the success of this pilot, through local and campus newspapers, the Internet, and open meetings. The evaluation will be available to interested stakeholders. The draft results of this evaluation were presented at an international meeting in Toronto, Canada in July 2002 sponsored by the Campus Safety, Health and Environmental Management Association.

XL Stakeholder Spin-Off Benefit.
An interesting aspect of this stakeholder development has been the evolution of a larger effort to describe the "Environmental Footprint" of UVM through the collection of environmental indicators. UVM applied for and received an EPA Technical Assistance Grant (TAG) in September 2001. The grants are available to Project XL sponsors through a cooperative agreement with the Institute for Conservation Leadership. The TAG was based on UVM's finding that local stakeholders were not focused on learning solely about laboratory hazardous waste management, and were more interested in looking at hazardous waste management as part of a holistic set of environmental indicators for the university. Local community organizations have been involved with the environmental footprint study as consultants. UVM's Environmental Council-comprised of students, faculty, and staff-reports to the President and is an active group for the XL project and for the indicators work that is ongoing. The results of the NEU Labs project will be aggregated as part of the indicators study.