College to Pay $60,000 for Violating Hazardous Waste Laws

The Maine College of Art in Portland, Maine, has agreed to pay $60,000 to settle claims that it violated numerous hazardous waste regulations, the agency announced on Jan. 4.

According to the settlement, Maine College of Art failed to properly determine if wastes were hazardous, which lead to the improper handling of hazardous waste and put the school's staff and students at risk.

"This settlement will help ensure that Maine College of Art complies with environmental laws meant to protect staff and students," said Robert W. Varney, regional administrator of EPA's New England office. "The violations found at the school may have unnecessarily exposed the campus population to hazardous waste, and allowed wastes to be improperly disposed of as non-regulated solid waste."

EPA's complaint against the college, filed last June, alleged that waste glaze, floor sweepings, acid pickling solution and other wastes were improperly handled and disposed of, and that cans of old waste paint, paint thinners and other solvents were managed improperly. Also, the college, which has 400 students, improperly stored and labeled fluorescent bulbs and computer monitors.

The Maine College of Art is now in compliance with hazardous waste regulations and has corrected all violations, agency officials said. In addition, the college has complied with Maine hazardous waste regulations related to "universal wastes," which includes the proper disposal of fluorescent bulbs and computer monitors. The school has submitted documents showing it is in compliance.

The complaint stemmed from an inspection of the college in April 2004.

The settlement is among numerous enforcement actions EPA's New England Office has taken against universities and colleges across the region as part of its College and University Initiative. Launched in 1999, the initiative included inspections and compliance assistance, including workshops geared for university environmental compliance personnel. More information on this program is available at http://www.epa.gov/region01/assistance/univ.

At a roundtable in 2003 at Yale University, EPA provided universities with information on an Audit Initiative, which allowed universities to self-disclose any violations and therefore get penalty reductions or low inspection priority. More than half of the 331 colleges and universities in New England participated in the initiative and more than a hundred self-disclosed violations were received from participating colleges and universities. Maine College of Art, however, chose not to participate in the initiative although it was invited to take part.

The College and University Initiative was launched after EPA inspectors noticed generally poor compliance during their visits to universities, which typically have large numbers of laboratories and other operations handling a large array of toxic chemicals.

Any college or university, as well as any company, that discovers violations through environmental audits of a facility may benefit from EPA's Audit Policy. More information on the audit policy is available at http://www.epa.gov/compliance/incentives/auditing/auditpolicy.html.

This article originally appeared in the 01/01/2006 issue of Environmental Protection.

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