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EPA Cites Raritan Valley Community College for Hazardous Waste Violations Fines Total $39,599

Release Date: 01/31/2003
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(#03007) New York, N.Y. -- Raritan Valley Community College (Raritan Valley), located in Somerville, New Jersey, faces $39,599 in penalties for alleged violations of hazardous waste regulations. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), as part of its ongoing effort to ensure the protection of those working at and attending institutions of higher learning, has issued an administrative enforcement action against the college alleging violations of federal and state laws that provide for the safe handling and disposal of hazardous wastes.

“Many colleges and universities have labs, art studios or print shops with the potential for violations similar to those EPA found at Raritan Valley, ” said EPA Regional Administrator Jane M. Kenny. “Colleges and universities can work with EPA to develop environmental self audit programs or wait for us to do an inspection and face the possibility of fines and penalties. We encourage the self audit route.”

The complaint, the basis for the proposed penalty, charges Raritan Valley with violations of the federal Resource Conservation and Recovery Act, which ensures that hazardous waste is managed in an environmentally sound manner from “cradle to grave.” The complaint includes an order requiring Raritan Valley to promptly address the alleged deficiencies and to comply with all appropriate federal and state hazardous waste laws.

According to the complaint, Raritan Valley failed to determine whether the solid waste it generated was hazardous and did not provide classroom or on the job training for employees to ensure proper handling of hazardous waste and implementation of emergency procedures. The college is also charged with allowing conditions to exist that might lead to a fire, explosion or unplanned release of hazardous waste to the air, surface water or soil which could threaten human health or the environment. The hazardous wastes cited in the complaint were generated in the college’s laboratories, art classes and print shop. They include waste oil paint, solvent and ceramic glaze, press wash, photochemical waste rags, spent fluorescent bulbs and used computer monitors. An inspection in February 2002 revealed that incompatible corrosive and organic wastes were stored next to one another near fume hoods and required emergency or contact person information was not posted. Old hazardous waste containers were found in poor condition, and unlabelled hazardous waste had been stored for long periods of time in locations without fire extinguishers or hazardous spill cleanup material nearby.

Raritan Valley is ordered to take steps, if it has not already done so, to comply with applicable federal and state requirements.

EPA encourages participation in its Colleges and Universities Initiative, which has been in place since 1999. EPA established the initiative because it found that many such institutions were not aware of their responsibilities under various environmental laws. As part of the initiative, EPA sent letters to 365 colleges and universities in New Jersey, New York, and Puerto Rico; held free workshops to help colleges and universities comply; set up a Web site that provides information about their duties under the law; and warned them that EPA inspections of their facilities – with the risk of financial penalties – were imminent. EPA encouraged the institutions to avail themselves of the agency’s Voluntary Audit Policy through which institutions can investigate and disclose violations to the agency and, if the necessary conditions are met, receive a partial or complete reduction in financial penalties.

To date, 48 colleges and universities in the region have come forward to disclose violations to EPA. More than half of those schools have been granted a 100% waiver of certain penalties. EPA has signed self-audit agreements with Rutgers University, the State University of New York ( SUNY), Syracuse University, the City University of New York and The Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art, in which those schools have committed to long-term audit, disclosure and remediation schedules in exchange for the benefits of the Voluntary Audit Policy. Previous complaints with penalties totaling more than $1.5 million were filed in 2002 against Pratt Institute, Manhattan College, Princeton University, Columbia University, Long Island University and New Jersey City University. The Colleges and Universities Initiative is an ongoing program with additional investigations anticipated.

More information on EPA’s Voluntary Audit Policy is available online . The Web site for the Colleges and Universities Initiative is